Strong interstate travel has surfaced in Malaysia since October 11 when the government lifted movement restrictions that were in place for three months, and tourism stakeholders are seeing a change in booking patterns.
Demand for off-the-beaten-track destinations is strong, along with a preference for online bookings.
Angelica Chan, country market manager, Traveloka, noted that unique destinations that offer seclusion and tranquillity are preferred over crowded, popular tourist destinations. Port Dickson, for instance, is winning over beach lovers although it was lesser-known among locals in the past.
Short staycations lasting one or two days in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor are gaining popularity among Klang Valley residents who desire a “quick escape” from their long lockdown.
Sherzede Datu Salleh Askor, CEO of Sarawak Tourism Board, said the state government had also been encouraging local tourism stakeholders, including homestay operators in the rural areas, to go digital since last year by offering financial incentives, in line with the change in domestic and global travel booking patterns.
She believed Sarawak ticked the right boxes with its offerings for international travellers once the border reopens, as travellers would be looking for eco-friendly destinations that were not congested, soft adventure and rich cultures.
Both Chan and Sherzede were speaking at the inaugural virtual discourse, X-Change Malaysia ’21, curated by Ab & Artho Tourism Marketing & PR on October 21. The event was aimed at rebuilding confidence and assurance of the Malaysian tourism industry.
Another speaker, Noredah Othman, CEO of Sabah Tourism Board, stressed that the board was engaging and guiding community-based tourism players and best practices that comply with the ASEAN community-based tourism standards.
Community-based tourism, with its simple concepts of back-to-nature and sustainable living, would be at the forefront for both local and international travel once borders reopen. As such, Sabah Tourism Board is planning roadshows in Peninsular Malaysia for now, and overseas interaction with foreign counterparts later on when international travel is made possible.
Anthony Wong, managing director, Cottage by the Sea by Frangipani Langkawi, shared that the Covid-19 pandemic had also raised awareness of sustainable practices. Since the resumption of domestic travel, Cottage by the Sea has been offering its guests farm-to-table dining experiences, and organic farm tours within the property.
He said: “Our rates are not that cheap, but people don’t mind paying for the experience.”