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Malaysia Raises the Bar as Tourism Bounces Back
04 March 2024 | Written by Chris Alexander

Since reopening borders to international arrivals back in 2022, Malaysia’s post-covid tourism recovery has outstripped all expectations. The latest figures from the Malaysian Tourism Promotion Board (also known as Tourism Malaysia) reveal the country has rebounded to almost the same level as before the pandemic. 

In a recent statement, Director-General of Tourism Malaysia, Ammar Abd Ghapar, confirmed that Malaysia welcomed 17.8 million foreign arrivals between January and November 2023. This not only represents a massive 116.5% increase compared to the same period in 2022, but also surpasses the target set at the beginning of the year, which was 16.1 million arrivals.  

In response to these encouraging signs, Malaysia has raised the bar and inflated expectations for the year ahead. The target for 2024 is now 27.3 million international arrivals, who are forecast to bring in around 102.7 billion Ringgit (US$ 21.4 billion) to the Malaysian economy in the months ahead. 

“In other words, we are hopeful to go beyond our pre-pandemic numbers, which was 26.1 million tourists back in 2019,” said the minister in an interview published by Avitation Week Network, in which he also confirmed Malaysia will host next year’s Asean Tourism Forum, as a precursor to the Visit Malaysia Year in 2026 campaign. 

“While we have yet to meet the pre-pandemic figures, we have seen a steady surge in arrivals from our top markets, especially in the past year from China after the government there eased its travel restrictions for outbound tourism,” added the minister, referring to the recent visa-free policy. 

Back on 26 November 2023, Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim announced a new policy permitting 30 days of free entry for Chinese and Indian nationals – one of five initiatives that make up the government’s new visa liberalisation plan, unveiled by Home Minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail the following day, on 27 November. 

Key to Malaysia’s tourism recovery has been collaboration with international airlines, including Emirates and Qatar Airways, which have helped to meet the growing demand from tourists across Asia and Africa, the Americas, Europe and Oceania. The recent surge in arrivals from the newly mobile Chinese segment has also played its part, further encouraged by the government’s move to relax visa requirements. 

“With the shifting travel trends and increased awareness of responsible tourism, we are continuously working hand-in-hand with industry players to meet these new demands by recreating and diversifying cultural and tourism products,” noted Ammar. “Adding more value to the tourism products and services provided, and improving destination attractiveness to attract more high-yield tourists,” he added.