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Travel Trends: Malaysia One of the Top Destinations in Asia
03 July 2024 | Written by Chris Alexander

Malaysia’s tourism sector continues to show positive signs of recovery, with arrivals doubling in the past year. According to the latest data released by Tourism Malaysia, the country received 20.14 million international arrivals in 2023, which represents a 100% increase on the 10.07 million who made the trip in 2022.  

Buoyed by the latest arrivals figures, and the RM71.3bil in tourism revenue generated by holidaymakers over this period, Tourism Malaysia have set a target of 27.3 million tourist arrivals in 2024. It’s estimated this would bring in a total of RM102.7bil. So far, they are already on track to meet – and possibly surpass – these targets. 

Meanwhile, a recent report from the Mastercard Economics Institute (MEI) has revealed some of the travel trends that characterise the recent growth, placing it in its regional context. According to the fifth annual report by MEI, Malaysia’s tourism industry is healthier than ever before, with certain segments (including shopping and dining) outstripping their pre-pandemic performance. The report uses a range of aggregated Mastercard transaction data to provide detailed insights into the travel industry across 74 markets, 13 of which are in the Asia Pacific region (APAC). 

And the report makes interesting reading for tourism operators in APAC destinations, as these locations are currently trending worldwide. By monitoring tourism transactions over a period of one year (ending March 2024), MEI can determine the top 10 trending tourism destinations worldwide. Malaysia places sixth on the list, ranking second among all the APAC destinations featured. Kuala Lumpur is also among the top three destinations for travellers, alongside Bangkok and Perth. 

The report also reveals several other interesting travel trends. For starters, there’s been a general increase in spending on experiential travel, with tourists spending 10% on this in 2024 compared to 7% in 2023. Spending on experiences and nightlife currently makes up 12% of tourism sales, which is the highest this has been in the last five years.  

“Consumers in the Asia Pacific region have an intense desire and willingness to travel and are becoming increasingly savvy to ensure they get the best value and unforgettable experiences from their trips,” says David Mann, Mastercard’s chief economist for Asia Pacific. “Businesses targeting tourism dollars need to review their current strategies, and shift them if necessary, to maintain their appeal to travellers,” he added.