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Recovery in Plan to Boost Malaysia Tourism amid Virus Concerns

The year 2020 started off bumpy as almost the entire world comes to face with a novel coronavirus taking the world by surprise, driving governments to apply enhanced border measures, and the Chinese government to tighten their quarantine policies as countering measure against the spreading of the virus. As China’s inbound and outbound tour groups had to be suspended, Malaysia’s overall tourism industry takes a big hit as China tourists made up 11 percent of our total number of tourists and ranked it the third biggest source of foreign tourists after Singapore and Indonesia for the year 2019. This was largely contributed by the fact that in 2019, Chinese tourists opted to travel to other Asia Pacific countries to cut back spending amidst a slow economy and trade tensions with the United States. 

This has sparked concerns over the impact of this outbreak on Malaysia’s tourism, especially the recently launched VM2020 (Visit Malaysia 2020). The Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry was quick to reconvene and identify tourism recovery initiatives to give the country’s tourism industry a much-needed boost for the next couple of months. This includes timely measures taken to restructure the VM2020 campaign to focus on new markets such as Europe, Middle East, East Asia (Japan, South Korea), Australia, Russia and more. Our country will try to fill in the gap created by the reduction in tourist arrivals from China. This will be achieved through close collaboration between the government and tourism industry players, including hotel operators and airline companies, whereby they could come up with attractive packages to attract tourists from these targeted countries. The ministry is also framing a new strategy to boost tourism arrivals from neighbouring ASEAN countries.

At a time when Malaysians are wary of flying abroad for their vacations, the need for more tour packages targeting local tourists are also in the rise. This will help to boost local tourism and make up for the decline of Chinese tourist arrivals. Tourism Malaysia will also amp up Cuti-Cuti Malaysia campaign to drive local tourism. Discussions with state governments in states such as Selangor, Penang, Johor and Sabah are also expected to take place as a platform to find the most effective solutions to improve tourism in the respective states and the country in general. 

Many quarters believe that this will only be a temporary tumble, as effective containment and virus relief efforts has been rapidly implemented, while treatment and vaccine researches move at a record speed. It is also worth noting that since the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003, the number of outbound Chinese tourists travelling per year has increased by more than seven times, from 20.2 million tourists in 2003 to an astonishing 149.7 million tourists in 2018.