Malaysia projects 2.5 million Muslim travellers, RM6.3 billion tourism receipts this year

According to the World Tourism Organisation’s (UNWTO) predictions for 2023, international tourist arrivals are expected to reach between 80 and 95 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, depending on several factors, such as the economy, and recovery of travel in Asia and the Pacific.

In Malaysia’s case, Datuk Zamri Mat Zain, deputy secretary-general (Tourism sector) of the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry, said the country had implemented various strategic efforts to revive its tourism industry, which was severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The result can be seen in the significant increase in the number of tourist arrivals and tourism income for the year 2022, where it increased by 7,734 per cent, to 10.07 million tourists, and 11,724 per cent, to RM28.23 billion, respectively, compared to 2021,” said Zamri.

“Hence, in 2023, we are optimistic about achieving higher numbers of tourist arrivals, especially with the relaxation of the country’s Covid-19 standard operating procedures, making Malaysia one of the most hassle-free countries for travellers. Malaysia hopes to receive 16.1 million tourist arrivals, generating a tourism income of RM49.2 billion for the country.”

Zamri said the ministry developed the Tourism Recovery Framework 2.0 in collaboration with industry players to revitalise the tourism industry, focusing on five pillars:

Pillar 1: Support Tourism and Cultural Businesses’ Recovery;

Pillar 2: Restore Travellers’ Confidence and Seamless Intraregional and International Travel;

Pillar 3: Reinvent Tourism and Cultural Products/Services to Drive Competitiveness;

Pillar 4: Align Tourism with Sustainability and Inclusivity; and

Pillar 5: Strengthening Recovery with Long-Term Resilience and Crisis Preparedness.

“Our key segments include nature and adventure, islands and beaches, diverse culture, and delicious local food. We are also placing great emphasis on community-based projects and sustainable travel.

“What differentiates Malaysia from other destinations is that visitors can experience all these things in just one country. We always say that Malaysia unites all of Asia,” he added.

Tourism Malaysia aims to attract more visitors by focusing on niche tourism segments such as ecotourism, medical and wellness, and experiential travel, while using Malaysian culture, cuisine, and the arts and heritage to enhance the tourism experience. It focuses on restoring travellers’ confidence by promoting inclusive and sustainable tourism development, and Malaysia as a safe travel destination.

The ministry acknowledges the significance of Islamic tourism in augmenting Malaysia’s tourism industry. From Malaysia’s experience in actively pursuing this market since 2009, the country has seen a steady increase in Muslim tourist arrivals.

“In 2019, the Muslim tourist market showed much promise for Malaysia, as it contributed to 5.3 million international arrivals, with a total spend of RM16.72 billion (approximately US$3.8 billion).

“In 2023, the forecasted figures for Muslim tourist arrivals and receipts to Malaysia are 2.5 million arrivals, and RM6.3 billion in tourist receipts. With focused efforts and industry buy-in of Islamic tourism, the potential to grow the tourism industry exists.

“We have found that the Islamic tourism ecosystem is closely connected with other tourism segments and major economic sectors. The growth of the Muslim tourist market may well sustain sectors, such as banking, finance, and insurance, through payment gateways, digital wallets, and travel insurance products created for this market.”

Additionally, he said that increased Islamic tourism activities would help drive product innovation and diversification, entrepreneurial opportunities, and job

Top Muslim arrivals were from Southeast Asia, West Asia, and South Asia (Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei, India, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Thailand, Bangladesh, China and Iran). In 2022, Malaysia welcomed 2.12 million Muslim tourists to its shores, with a tourism spend of RM5.37 billion.

“It is projected that globally, Muslim tourist arrivals will reach 140 million in 2023, and return to the 2019 level of 160 million, in 2024. Muslim arrivals are projected to reach 230 million, with an estimated spend of US$225 billion by 2028.”

Zamri emphasised that industry players should take note of the expanding Muslim travel market, citing factors such as the significant size of the Muslim population, their sizeable contribution to travel expenditures, the potential for high profitability, and the increasing demand for sustainable and high-value products and services that cater to faith-based needs.

“In the development of Islamic Tourism in Malaysia, the ministry, through its agencies, particularly Tourism Malaysia, Malaysia Convention and Exhibition Bureau, and the Islamic Tourism Centre, are working closely together.

“We help to prepare industry players to be more efficient and effective in catering to this market. We can equip industry players with the right thinking, skills, and resources through our training programmes; provide them with industry assurance and a branding tool through our guidelines and certification process; and assist them in innovating within this space through our various research on Islamic tourism.”

Zamri said Malaysia will continue to develop the Muslim-friendly travel segment by offering unique and meaningful experiences, especially in accessibility, communications, and services. Rest&Rehlah (@Halal)

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