How do you assess the contribution of tourism to Malaysia's economy?
The tourism industry in Malaysia has been identified as the key driver in the services sector. The industry continues to be the main source of foreign exchange that contributes to economic growth, investment, and employment and strengthening of service accounts in the balance of payments. In Malaysia, the tourism industry is one of the major contributors of the national services sector, with a contribution of 14.9% to GDP or MYR201.4 billion (USD49.315 billion) in 2017. Receipts from the tourism sector contributed MYR84.1 billion (USD20.593 billion) to the national economy in 2018, up by 2.4% compared to MYR82.2 billion (USD20.127 billion) in 2017. In addition, tourism industry employment recorded a high of 3.4 million people, representing 23.2% of total employment in Malaysia.
How do you view the potential to further develop ecotourism, particularly in Sabah and Sarawak?
Malaysia has formulated the National Ecotourism Plan 2016-2025 to maximize the potential of ecotourism and ensure sustainability in line with the State Government of Sabah and Sarawak Ecotourism Strategic Plan. This plan embodies the spirit of the theme, uplifting communities, opportunities, and economies. The National Ecotourism Plan 2016-2025 is a roadmap for conservation of ecotourism sites in the country through 19 strategies and 86 action plans. It is geared toward developing the ecotourism sector in order to further increase the tourism industry's contribution to the economy. Under the National Ecotourism Plan 2016-2025, eight ecotourism clusters in Sabah and nine ecotourism clusters in Sarawak that comprise matured and emerging clusters have been identified for further development to maximize its potential through several strategies. The strategies include upgrading and development of ecotourism infrastructure, product development, capacity building, and implementation of sustainable tourism development best practices as well as marketing and promotion.
What are the requirements to further strengthen Malaysia's position as a tourism hub in Southeast Asia?
In order to strengthen Malaysia's position as a tourism hub in Southeast Asia and the world, we need to focus on innovation and quality, human capital development, connectivity, travel facilitation, and sustainability. To remain relevant, it is important for Malaysia's tourism industry to transform by harnessing public-private partnership and embracing digitalization to drive innovation and competitiveness toward sustainable and inclusive development.
What main sources markets for international tourists would you like to develop moving forward?
Tourism income is an indicator that has a more economic impact on the country. This does not mean the number of tourists is not important; however, the focus will be on the amount of money spent as well as their length of stay. This is what we called a quality or high-yield tourist, which mostly come from medium to long-haul markets.
How do you assess the attractiveness of Malaysia as a destination for tourism-related investments?
Malaysia has so much to offer compared to other countries. Our long-running, global brand positioning “Malaysia Truly Asia" serves to highlight our pillar of strength, namely the diverse cultures and multiracial communities living in harmony and peace in one beautiful and blessed country. With the highest regard for conservation and preservation of nature, ecotourism will be one major segment to look into. This is in line with the development of the ecotourism clusters implemented under the National Ecotourism Plan 2016-2025. It will also benefit locals by contributing to the existing supply chain via integrated development that complements each other. Under this plan, 60 ecotourism clusters across the whole country have been identified for potential development by attracting foreign investors.
What is your outlook for the year ahead, and what will be your main objectives?
We have our Visit Malaysia 2020 (VM2020) plan, where we target earning MYR100 billion (USD24.486 billion) from 30 million tourists. The ministry has a big task in ensuring the involvement and cooperation of all stakeholders including the public and private sectors, non-governmental organizations, local communities, and industry players in achieving this target.