Luring domestic travellers requires ingenious marketing and programming as well as irresistable offers, travel agents discover
Malaysia’s travel and tourism industry is making a slow comeback, thanks in part to the persistent efforts of the federal and state governments as well as the private sector to revive domestic interest.
Incentives for Malaysians to holiday within the country include personal income tax relief of up to RM1,000 (US$235) on domestic tourism expenses as well as service tax exemption at hotels. These are in addition to attractive deals and promotions that local tourism suppliers have rolled out to entice bookings since the removal of interstate travel bans on June 10.
Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) president, Tan Kok Liang, said the industry was on track for recovery, in line with the United Nations World Tourism Organization’s projection that travel and tourism rebound would happen in 2021.
The minister of tourism, arts and culture, Nancy Shukri, expects the tourism industry to begin recovering in 2Q2021.
While there is a strong dependence on the domestic market, Nigel Wong, director of Urban Rhythms Tours, Adventures and Travel, said there was a challenge in getting locals to book with tour operators.
He explained: “Domestic guests prefer to make their own arrangements and bookings. They do not realise that a tailor-made programme designed by a travel agent will result in convenience and time savings.”
To get residents to put their faith in local travel agents, Urban Rhythms is promoting interesting experiences that excite the senses, such as food tours with wine pairings in Penang and Ipoh as well as hidden gems that many Malaysians are unaware of due to a lack of promotions.
“This includes Ulu Tupai Waterfalls in Taiping, which is a pristine nature retreat just 15 minutes’ drive from Taiping town, and the many small nature resorts in Janda Baik, Pahang, which offers nature excursions and visits to fruit and vegetable farms,” Wong detailed.
May Chiong, product planner at Malaysian Harmony Tour & Travel, said the agency has been successfully selling tour packages and hotel stays on Facebook Live since June. Response has been good.
She said: “We use our in-house talents to lead the video programme in an engaging manner and we always include attractive packages offering good value to our Facebook fans.”
Chiong said live-streaming has also helped the company to build brand awareness in the domestic market. The company dealt mainly in outbound tourism pre-pandemic, but had to pivot to domestic tours and products for survival.
She observed that domestic travellers are price sensitive and prefer to shop around for good deals.
“We attract them by working with hotels to create attractively priced packages. Beach retreats and Instagrammable destinations are doing well, especially on weekends when families or friends travel together,” said Chiong.
Klook is also targeting domestic travellers through a series of exclusive staycation offers. Accommodation is bundled with perks, such as free massages, F&B credits and attraction passes, to create a well rounded vacation for the customer.
Emily Tan, marketing lead of Klook Malaysia, shared that nature-focused staycations and theme park hotels are in hot demand.
“Some customers enjoy a tropical paradise at Ipoh’s Belum Rainforest Resort to escape the usual hustle and bustle. Meanwhile, travelling groups with children prefer to mix hotel stays with theme parks nearby, such as Legoland Hotel Malaysia and Hard Rock Hotel Desaru Coast. This allows both the parents and children to get an enjoyable travel experience,” she said.
Tan remains optimistic that demand for local activities and experiences will continue to rise through 4Q2020, and will spike during the upcoming public holidays.”
To further boost travel confidence and peace of mind of travellers staying in certified hotels, the Malaysian Association of Hotels launched the Clean & Safe Malaysia hygiene and safety certification programme for properties in July. This is supported by the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture Malaysia.
Every certified hotel is issued the Clean & Safe Malaysia label. This is the benchmark of hygiene and safety standards for the hotel industry in the country.