Following the successful reopening of Malaysia’s borders to tourism, the government has revised its target for international arrivals up to 4.5 million by the end of this year. The influx of new travellers has outstripped expectations, and is estimated to be worth around RM11.1 billion (US$2.5 billion) in tourism receipts for 2022.
When Malaysia reopened on 1 April, the initial target was for 2 million foreign visitors by the end of the year. However, that number has already been reached. Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri has confirmed these positive developments have raised expectations and altered her ministry’s view of what can be achieved in the months ahead.
“We have set this new target as we are optimistic about achieving a higher number of tourists,” said Nancy, while hosting a familiarisation trip with the Thai Travel Agents Association (TTAA). “The past two years have been tremendously challenging for us, but ever since the reopening of our international borders last April, we have had encouraging tourist arrivals,” she added.
The minister also noted that partners such as the TTAA would be vital to the continued regrowth of the tourism industry. In addition to the steadily growing international crowd, Malaysia and Thailand are looking to explore the potential of ASEAN, short-haul and domestic travellers, by building closer regional ties and developing local promotions.
Officials are confident that Thailand can be one of Malaysia’s most important short-haul markets. In 2019, they welcomed more than 1.8 million arrivals from Thailand, of whom almost 70% were repeat travellers. According to the latest data, they come for holidays, shopping and to visit friends and relatives; meanwhile, their top activities were sightseeing in the cities, shopping and visiting historical sites, including museums. The most visited states are the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur, Selangor and Pahang.
Nancy believes Malaysia’s combination of amazing attractions and ease of travel is key to its success with Thai travellers and those arriving from other, more distant markets. “Malaysia is one of the most hassle-free countries to visit in the post-Covid-19 pandemic times,” she observed. “Starting May 1, Malaysia has further eased the standard operating procedures as fully-vaccinated travellers are no longer required to undergo pre-departure and on-arrival Covid-19 tests, including children aged 17 and below,” said the minister.
Looking ahead to the next few months, Nancy has big plans for Malaysia, and is aiming to capitalise on the new wave of travellers in the new normal. Central to this will be promotion of Malaysian attractions. As she explains, “we also aim to raise awareness of our historical state of Melaka, which is one of the recognised UNESCO World Heritage sites in Malaysia, and we hope this initiative will further boost even more Thai [and international] arrivals.”