Malaysia has committed to expanding its eco-friendly offerings, while also improving standards across the board. The government is backing these commitments up with funding, by allocating a cool RM350mil (US$ 73.6 million) to sustainable tourism development in the 2024 National Budget.
Malaysia already has extensive infrastructure in place for ecotourism, with a wide array of attractions showcasing the country’s natural wonders. Nevertheless, officials believe this is just the tip of the ecotourism iceberg, with much more potential yet to be explored in this steadily growing niche market.
The new tourism budget, announced recently by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, represents an increase of RM100mil (US$ 21 million) compared to its predecessor. Funding will be channelled into ecotourism activities such as trekking, diving and golf, while also revamping other sub-sectors such as weddings and medical tourism.
Other initiatives set to benefit from the improved budget will be national tourism promotions, which encompass the upcoming promotional campaigns for Visit Malaysia Year 2026. Having pushed this date back from the original 2025 plan, the government is determined to make VMY26 worth the wait.
National publication The Star recently conducted a series of interviews with tourists in Malaysia, to gauge their feelings on eco travel and ask their opinions on the new budget. Some mentioned the practical benefits, such as flight availability and the ease of booking tours, while others focused on the attractions themselves.
One 25-year-old respondent, named Elaine, said she’s glad the government is looking into niche tourism, noting Malaysia’s great potential for ecotourism. “There are so many activities to do when you are out here – jungle trekking, bamboo rafting and many more,” she said.
She is one of many travellers who have been drawn to Malaysia by the spectacular diving on offer. “I’m planning to visit Sabah and take a diving course with one of the local divers, thanks to the many beautiful photos of marine creatures (I’ve seen) on social media.”
Veronica, who is 30 years old, believes this kind of marketing should be expanded by the new influx of cash for tourism promotions. “More brand awareness also needs to be done to attract foreign tourists,” she said.
For 31-year-old Adeline, convenience was the main appeal of expansion. “You will not only save on airfare and accommodation, but it is also easier to plan the itinerary,” she said. Other respondents noted that infrastructure improvements and investment in travel connections would be a welcome consequence of the new budget.
For these three travellers, and the millions of others set to follow their path in the coming months, Malaysia offers a wide and varied range of ecotourism attractions to explore. Now, with added investment from the government, ecotourism is set to move out of the niche segment and into the mainstream.