Inbound players across Malaysia are seeing a more encouraging summer travel season for Indian travellers, with forward bookings showing reduced price sensitivity and a return of both FIT and corporate incentive interest.
India is among the top five tourism source markets for Malaysia.
Despite higher airfares as a result of limited air capacity, A Aruldas, managing director of Tourland Travel, said demand has been “encouraging” ever since the start of the Indian summer holidays. He noted that Kuala Lumpur, Genting and Langkawi remain hot favourites among his Indian customers.
Tourland Travel has also just completed an incentive travel group from India – a 220-pax event hosted by a travel insurance company. The group visited Kuala Lumpur, Genting and Port Dickson.
Comparing this Indian summer season with pre-pandemic times, Amritha Dijith, CEO, Apollo Asia Travel Group, said there is now a larger FIT segment. This year, 90 per cent of the agency’s Indian customers are FITs, while pre-pandemic there was a more balanced split between FITs and group travellers, with the latter making up around 40 per cent of the company’s clientele.
Amritha also gladly noted that Indian travellers were also not as price sensitive as they used to be.
“The weak ringgit against the US dollar is an added advantage, as most B2B agents quote their packages in US dollars,” she added.
Indeed, despite many travel agents raising their package rates this year due to escalating operating costs, Ganneesh Ramaa, vice-president, Destination Explore, said Malaysia remains an affordable and attractive destination for Indian travellers.
Thus far, forward bookings are looking promising for Destination Explore. Ganneesh recalled that his agent partners in India had responded positively to news of Malaysia’s reopening and the removal of pre-departure and on-arrival Covid-19 tests and quarantine requirements.
However, for Malaysia to rebuild Indian travel demand, Ganneesh said air capacity and frequency of flights must improve, while the process of obtaining a visa should be shortened to 24 hours and fees lowered. Meanwhile, he also urged authorities to address the challenge of manpower shortages at hotels and restaurants in Malaysia.
The lengthy visa processing time, which could take several days, has resulted in two FIT tour booking cancellations for MVT Travel. Managing director V Kunaseelan said individuals could not get their visa on time, which is a problem since travellers from India tend to book very last minute.
To reengage this critical source market, Tourism Malaysia recently led a delegation of 15 tour operators, three hoteliers, three product owners and three airlines to South Asia’s Travel & Tourism Exchange, commonly known in the trade as SATTE.