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Sunday, July 5, 2009


Malaysia has long been one of the word’s best kept tourism secrets. It is an ideal tourism destination in so many different respects as it offers a vast range of diverse attractions to suit all taste - and at relatively affordable prices. Most importantly, since it has not yet attracted mass tourism interest, it has remained largely unspoilt, despite the industry's relentless search for new destinations.

The country has endless stretches of white sandy beaches, including some 700 kilometres of almost deserted coastline on the east coast of peninsular Malaysia and literally hundreds of tropical islands away from the popular, traditional circuits. It is an ecotourist’s paradise boasting 19 national parks, jungles, hill resorts and Southeast Asia's highest mountain, Mount Kinabalu in the East Malaysia /Borneo state of Sabah. In addition it is a harmonious blend of centuries-old cultures, arts and traditions, and of multi-racial and multi-ethnic communities.Nevertheless, while industry analysts and foreign tour operators have long been predicting that Malaysia is on the point of experiencing a tourism boom,its actual performance over the past decade has not been outstanding. Despite reported strong growth in arrivals and international tourism receipts in 1999 and 2000, arrivals grew by only 37 per cent in the ten years to 2000,and by just 6.5 per cent from 1990 to 1999. (Li, Tan Cheng. 2002. Pg 3 )

The main problem seems to be one of image. The country has never succeeded – at least until now – in developing a clear product appeal as, for example,Thailand has. It does not have the draw of Bangkok's nightlife, nor that of Singapore's entertainment possibilities. As a result, Malaysia still lags behind other leading competitive destinations in the region, particularly in terms of international tourism receipts.
Nevertheless, future prospects for Travel & tourism are good.There is widespread recognition of its contribution to the national economy, and the Malaysian Government at its highest level is fully committed to the long-term development of the industry. This should help ensure that, despite the significant challenges still to be addressed, Travel & tourism reaches its enormous potential as a catalyst for future economic and social development across the whole of the country. Measures already
undertaken by the government also augur well for the sustainable development of Travel & tourism – achieving a healthy balance between business imperatives, the protection of cultural heritage and environment, and the well-being of local communities.

The baseline Forecasts for Malaysia aregenerally positif Travel & Tourism demandis projected to increase in line with forecastgdp growth over the next few years.
The annualised rates of growth for Travel & tourism demand andvisitor exports are also in line with projections for Southeast Asia as a whole. However, WTTC believes that Malaysia’s Travel & tourism growth potential is greater than for major competing destinations, as well as for the region overall, and that the baseline scenario forecast could easily be surpassed. At the same time there are a number of weaknesses that could hinder growth and prevent Malaysia from attaining its true Travel & tourism potential.

2.1 EMPLOYMENT - Travel & tourism accounts for a significant share of Malaysia’s total employment. Yet, given the relatively modest growth in jobs forecast over the next nine years – 2.9 per cent per annum for jobs directly in the industry and 2.5 per cent for jobs throughout the Travel & tourism economy – the available workforce is unlikely to be able to keep up with Travel & tourism demand.The situation could be exacerbated by the low unemployment in Malaysia and the fact that Travel & tourism jobs are perceived as being poorly paid. (Maritime Institute of Malaysia. (2001). Pg 11)

Travel & tourism research data in Malaysia needs improvement, both in terms of quantity and quality. This is especially true of economic data on the industry, such as tourist expenditure patterns. The lack of good data makes it difficult to measure trends
in Travel & tourism demand and reduces the industry's ability to ensure accurate forecasts of future trends. This weakens both government's and the Industry's ability to plan ahead to match supply to demand. Malaysia needs to invest in developing a more sophisticated research capability, ensuring close collaboration between the industry and national and state statistical institutes

Malaysia, like most other countries in the developed and developing world,is experiencing an economic slowdown. Forecast GDP growth for 2001 has been revised
downwards by the Malaysian Institute of Economic Research (MIER) to around 2.2 per cent, rising to between 5.0 per cent and 6.0 per cent in 2002,in line with the expected rebound in the global economy and an upturn in the electronics sector.Also positive is the fact that unemployment is low, hovering around 3.0 per cent, as is inflation, subdued at below 2.0 per cent. However, the weakness of the yen and other Asian currencies could erode the competitiveness of Malaysia’s exports given the ringgit's peg to the US dollar. Malaysia is still considered a low-cost destination but the strength of the US dollar/ringgit could soon undermine its marketing advantage.

Both foreign and domestic private sector investment suffered as a result of the Asian
economic and financial crisis. The resulting decline in tourist arrivals also put much deluxe hotel development on hold after massive investment in the sector up to 1997.
Nevertheless, fiscal policy incentives from government and renewed confidence in the
destination have since stimulated Travel & tourism investment, which is this year expected to account for 12 per cent of total capital investment.

Government expenditures are relatively low by comparison. The cost of providing individual and collective services to the Malaysian Travel & tourism industry, visitors and the community at large is estimated at 2.1 per cent of total expenditures. The share falls short of the level of expenditures on Travel & tourism services (3.4 per cent) in Southeast Asia generally. More significantly, the 4.7 per cent annual growth in government expenditures on Travel & tourism may not be rapid enough for Malaysia to maintain, let alone gain, competitive edge. (

Malaysia is a relatively unspoilt destination although there are increasing examples of over- exploitation of natural resources. One can also find other disruptive impacts of tourism on the local environment and cultural heritage. One of the major problems is that, while federal government is responsible for administering and managing parks and other protected areas, these remain under the jurisdiction of individual states. This has made it difficult to prevent over- development. The elaboration of Malaysia ‘s National Ecotourism Plan reflects the commitment by the federal government to try to ensure the sustainable development of tourism. The Plan recognises that tourism is private sector led but indicates roles for all sectors of federal, state and local government, private businesses, non-government organisations and other players. Priority must now be given to implementing the Plan and to involving all stakeholders in the management of tourism. If this is not assured, and growth is allowed to develop in an unplanned/ uncontrolled fashion, there is a risk of excessive strains on the infrastructure and on natural resources

Malaysia ‘s image as a safe and secure destination has been tarnished – in many ways
unfairly – by travel advisories issued by foreign governments to warn their citizens about perceived threats to their safety, health and well-being. Incidents affecting tourist demand range from health scares to the effect of the smoke haze caused by illegal fires in Indonesia, but there are also frequent – and often distorted – media reports about riots and demonstrations in Malaysia. The federal government, through the Malaysia tourism Promotion Board (MTPB) should address these concerns as a matter of urgency, clearly explaining the extent of the problems rather than avoiding
discussion of the issues, as is currently the case.

Experience has shown that demand for Malaysia as a tourism destination grows significantly when funding for marketing and promotion is increased. The MTPB's budget is well below that of other national tourism organizations from leading tourism destinations in the region. A sustained promotional campaign is critical, not only to clarify and enhance Malaysia’s image in traditional and emerging source markets, but also to raise awareness of Travel & tourism’s significant contribution to federal, state and local economies and the spin-off benefits to all stakeholders.

In order to achieve or – even better – surpass the baseline forecasts, certain key factors need to be assured.
These include a well-planned and well-implemented national tourism policy, a favourable fiscal policy, continuing incentives for investment, new infrastructure development, sustained and effective marketing and promotion, improved education and training, and product diversification. All this presupposes close co- ordination between the federal, state and local governments, as well as with the private sector

Against this report has made certain policy recommendations to the Malaysian Government. These recommendations are summarized below:

Establish a National tourism Development Plan in consultation with state and local governments and the private sector. Monitor trends in Travel & tourism demand so as to anticipate and adapt products to changing demand. Focus on market and product diversification in order to reduce the heavy dependence on traditional markets and to increase yield. Market and Promote more effectively to spread the benefits of tourism to all parts of the country and to all stakeholders. Work more closely with the private sector to address existing concerns and develop public-private sector partnerships in areas such as marketing and promotions, product development, and education and training. Anticipate future investment needs by introducing new incentive schemes for private sector capital investment and small business development, especially to encourage heritage and nature-based tourism enterprises

Recognise Travel & tourism’s impact across the wider economy and its ability to diversify Malaysia’s economy, and ensure this is measured on an annual basis by means of a national tourism satellite account. Reflect Travel & tourism in mainstream policies for employment, trade, investment and education, ensuring that the underlying policy framework is conducive to dynamic growth. Communicate the strategic importance of Travel & tourism to all levels of government and industry, as well as to local communities.

Promote a positive image of the Travel & tourism Industry as a provider of jobs and career opportunities for all Malaysians. Take advantage of Travel & tourism potential to provide jobs for young people, first-time job seekers, minority groups and women looking for part-time employment. Recognise that Travel & tourism employment is concentrated in small businesses and local communities throughout the country and across the whole employment spectrum. Continue to place education and training at the forefront of Travel & tourism development,introducing it in the high-school curricula and adopting measures to improve skills.

Progressively liberalise trade, transport and communications, both through regional trading regimes such as ASEAN and the World Trade Organization's General Agreement on Trade in Services. Open up air transport markets by providing increased incentives to attract more long-haul services, and improve regional networks by expanding liberal aviation accords. Upgrade marketing and promotions to match prevailing competitive approaches and restructure the MTPB as a public- private sector partnership, co-ordinating national, state and local efforts. Build safety and security provisions into national, state and local strategies, and place special emphasis on Travel & tourism in overall policing strategies. Develop fiscal regimes that encourage tourism growth, exports, investment, infrastructure, business innovation and job creation

Develop an agreed process for forecasting Travel & tourism infrastructure demand – especially in the accommodation sector, which will have high credibility in the industry and with the investment and financial community. Develop new conference/convention facilities to meet the growing demand from this high-yield sector. Continue to expand infrastructure, including airports and air traffic control, and streamline immigration and border clearance facilities. Co-ordinate with state governments to improve road networks across the country, opening up new areas for tourism development. Encourage state governments to improve land-use planning and protection to ensure that the patterns of flow do not adversely affect the natural or built heritage. Introduce increasing incentives for the rapid modernisation and upgrading of Malaysia’s rural infrastructure in order to spread the benefits of Travel & tourism across the country. Highlight the dangers of excessive, unplanned development, which can result in unhealthy competition, declining operating performances and profits. Develop access to capital resources and encourage capital investment in Malaysia’s Travel & tourism industry from domestic and foreign sources

Provide support for local Malaysian companies so that they can develop access to technological advances and compete more effectively with foreign-owned companies.
Take the lead in the development of a national tourism portal, together with partners from the private sector, so as to improve distribution of Malaysia’s tourism products and develop e-marketing skills

Ensure that the procedures and guidelines for planned and sustainable tourism expansion incorporated in the National Ecotourism Plan are communicated to all stakeholders and implemented as widely as possible. Adopt the principles of Agenda 21 for the Travel & tourism Industry developed by WTTC, the World tourism Organization and the Earth Council. Ensure that the socio-economic, cultural and environmental benefits of Travel & tourism are spread equitably across the population in all parts of the country, and actively encourage local community engagement and empowerment. Introduce new financial programmes to provide incentives for local community-based sustainable tourism enterprises. Seek branding for Malaysia’s key natural and cultural resources through international designations and create new national designations.

Farrell, Tracy A. and Marion, Jeffery L. (2002). The Protected Area Visitor Impact Management (PAVIM) Framework : A Simplified Process for Making Management Decisions. Journal of Sustainable tourism 10 (1), 31-51.

King, V.T.(1993). Anthropology and Development in South-East Asia. Theory and practice. Oxford University Press.

Lingham, W.(1994). Overview of the tourism Industry in Sabah. Issues and Challenggers in Developing Nature tourism in Sabah. Institute of Development Studies. Sabah.

Li, Tan Cheng. (2002). Victim of It’s Own Beauty. The Star, Section 2, 19 September 2002.

Maritime Institute of Malaysia. (2001). Report on Conservation of Biodiversity in Marine Parks of Peninsular Malaysia : Review of Institutions and Policies.

Stankey, G.H. and McCool, S.F. (1992). Managing Recreation Use of Marine Resources Through the Limits of Acceptable Change Planning System. Paper presented at First World Congress on tourism and the Environment, Belize.

World tourism Organization, “Marketing tourism destinations online”, 1999

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