Connectivity a challenge in Malaysia’s push for more tourist arrivals

Tourists at Tanjung Aru Beach in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah

Malaysia is working on improving tourist arrivals from its core markets, with air connectivity a major factor in Asia and marketing key to keeping its hold of visitors from the region.

Abdul Khani Daud, deputy director-general (promotion), Tourism Malaysia, said the organisation is working with Malaysia Airports to attract airlines from Thailand, the Philippines, India and Hong Kong, among others, to fly to secondary destinations in Malaysia, including Sabah and Sarawak.

Tourists at Tanjung Aru Beach in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah

Quezon City’s Thousand Miles Travel general manager, Cassey Antoinette Ruiz, opined that air connectivity from the Philippines to secondary cities in Malaysia such as Langkawi, Sabah and Sarawak will make it easier to push the destinations, which are limited to Kuala Lumpur combination packages as there are no direct flights.

Abdul Khani shared that the government was also trying to attract India-based airlines as this was key to arrest year-on-year decline in arrivals from India since 2012. Currently, the India-Malaysia route is served by Malaysia-based carriers, namely Malaysia Airlines, AirAsia and Malindo Air.

DoView Holidays India director, Srinivas Vemuri, said: “Indian airlines would improve air connectivity with B Class Cities such as Pune, Gujerat, Lucknow, places where there are currently no flights to Malaysia.

“Most Malaysia-based airline routes between Kuala Lumpur and India are to the main metro cities in India, making it inconvenient for Indians living outside these cities to travel to Malaysia. Also, there is a lack of awareness about the e-visa facility offered to Indians.”

Meanwhile, Tourism Malaysia is sensing a greater urgency to intensify promotions in the Middle East, as arrivals from traditional top performer Saudi Arabia fell nine per cent in the first four months of 2018.

Abdul Khani said: “The promotional budget for the (region) has been reduced while our competitors, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and others are working to (gain) market share. We need to increase our promotional campaigns in the Middle East or risk losing share.”

Ghaleb Hayek, branch manager at Sazat, based in Lebanon, said there is a general lack of awareness about the destination and that the capital, with its Pretronas Twin Towers, is too similar with more accessible Dubai. He commented: “Malaysia has to promote its unique cultures and heritage outside the city areas.”

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