As part of a rationalisation exercise, the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture Malaysia (MOTAC) is considering the closure of Tourism Malaysia offices in Osaka (Japan), Auckland (New Zealand) and Almaty (Kazakhstan).
The closures are seen as a way of reducing operating costs, which range between RM67 million (US$16.3 million) to RM70 million annually for each of the three offices under review, said deputy minister, Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chi.
There are currently two Tourism Malaysia offices in Japan, one in Osaka and the other in Tokyo. Should Tourism Malaysia decide to close the Osaka office, its promotions in Japan will be taken over by the Tokyo office. Similarly, its office in Sydney will manage promotions for both Australia and New Zealand.
Raaj Navaratnaa, general manager at New Asia Holiday Tours & Travel, opined: “The MOTAC should not emphasise on cost-cutting measures but instead look at the value that these tourism offices can bring. It is no point closing the Osaka office and making Tokyo office look after the Japanese market if it does not include getting additional staff and having proper marketing plans in place to tap the Japanese market.
“I think the reason Tourism Malaysia offices are not doing well is because they failed to tap the potential of these markets. We have to re-engineer packages to meet the needs of each market.”
Commenting on the closure of the Almaty office, Asutra Convex managing director, Azizi Borhan, remarked that Central Asia is a market with great potential for growth, despite it is also a seasonal market. He said: “Tourism Malaysia should develop a long-term strategy on how to further develop this market.”
In the first four months of 2018, arrivals from Japan saw a small decline of 0.8 per cent to 131,241 tourists while New Zealand saw a growth of 4.8 per cent to 16,747. Inbound arrivals from Kazakhstan remains small at 5,642, although this represents a significant 44.7 per cent growth from the preceding year.