Malaysia ramps up tourism push

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Sunday, December 8, 2013


WITH a target of 28 million tourists for 2014, it’s no wonder that the Malaysian tourism ministry is shelling out 60 billion ringgit in advertising and promotions to be able to meet the goal, a million more than what they plan to achieve by the year’s end.

Anyone who visits Malaysia will get a sense that Malaysians dream big. The highways and roads of its main city Kuala Lumpur connect seamlessly from one community to the next, showing how years of urban planning and high infrastructure spending have benefitted its residents. Their buildings are aesthetically pleasing, as well as functional.

Most notable are the Petronas Twin Towers, which stand in the center of Kuala Lumpur and are visible even from the skyways approaching the city.

Though surpassed by others as the tallest building in the world, the towers still remain one of the tallest twin skyscrapers and make for an interesting shape in Kuala Lumpur’s skyline.

So if they want to match their tourism arrival numbers with their entire population, there is little doubt they will achieve it. Their government has named 2014 Visit Malaysia year, its fourth since it was first held in 1990.

They don’t mind where the visitors come from, as long as they arrive. They have their eye on the Philippines, its proximity to Malaysia and population of 100 million making it an ideal target market.

Licensed tour guide Azhar Embi admitted that they invest substantially in familiarization tours, such as the tour they co-sponsored for Philippine media, bloggers and travel agents last week. With new flights from Cebu to Kuala Lumpur and soon to Kota Kinabalu in Dec. 19 via low cost carrier AirAsia, Embi believes the added connectivity will bring in the tourism numbers they are hoping for.

Similar culture

He expects Filipinos will feel right at home in Malaysia, citing similarities in culture and words that most countries in Southeast Asia share. He added that the Filipino community in Malaysia is “one of the best”, numbering about 400,000. Most of them provide professional services in healthcare, construction and infrastructure.

They also contribute to Malaysia’s tourism industry, as the country promotes medical tourism fiercely. Hospitals equal five-star hotels when it comes to facilities so that those who need medical treatment can bring their families along and explore what Malaysia has to offer. Many Filipinos also provide the entertainment for establishments.

Though tourism numbers are already high, Malaysia is not resting on its laurels as it constantly works to improve.

They have planned over 200 events next year, including the Malaysia International Shoe Fair, Malaysia Contemporary Art Tourism and Malaysia International Tourism Night Floral Parade. Embi added that the Formula One grand prix and Motor Grand Prix draw in so many visitors that the highways leading to the airport, where the Sapang Formula One Circuit is situated, suffer from traffic jams hours before the race starts.

They also want to showcase their newest attraction, the i-City, a theme park within the 72-acre Shah Alam mixed use development in Selangor state. Best visited at night, the park features a landscape of LED lights, a 50,000 square ft frozen playground, waterpark, arcade games, haunted house and wax museum.

Although the additional flights are expected to boost Malaysian tourism, AirAsia Zest communications head Jenny Bugarin-Tan said it could also work well for Philippine tourism.

She explained that tourists exploring Malaysia can go on a side trip to the Philippines with low fares and daily flights readily available.

Embi agrees with this, saying there are many tourists who hop from Singapore to Malaysia and end up in Bangkok, Thailand in just one trip. He added that there is no reason tourists can’t add Manila or Cebu to their itinerary.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 09, 2013.

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