SEPANG: Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has called for domestic tourism to be given priority as Malaysia tries to woo more foreign tourists to the country.
“While much effort is being done to attract foreign visitors, do not ignore our domestic tourism as it is a key contributor to the economy.
“A total of 78.2 million domestic tourists were recorded in 2018 with a growth of 10.9% from the previous year. Domestic tourism expenditure also registered a growth of 11.7% in 2018 with RM60.4 billion,” he said at the launch of the Visit Truly Asia Malaysia 2020 logo at Kuala Lumpur International Airport here today.
On the overall performance of the tourism sector, Mahathir said it has shown impressive performance between January and May, with tourist arrivals recording a growth of 4.8% over the same period last year.
He said there were 10.95 million tourist arrivals during the first five months of the year compared with 10.45 million previously.
Tourism revenue during the first quarter of the year, he said, reached RM21.4 billion, a surge of 16.9% compared to the same period the year before.
The prime minister also witnessed the exchange of a Memorandum of Joint Promotion between Tourism Malaysia and Malaysia Airlines, AirAsia, Firefly, Malindo Air, Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad and Sharp (M) Electronic Sdn Bhd.
This was followed by the unveiling of the Visit Truly Asia Malaysia 2020 livery on aircraft belonging to the four airlines.
Mahathir said tourism was, without a doubt, one of the most important sectors to ensure the country’s economic and service sector growth.
“It has not only been able to generate income but also provides many jobs for our people,” he said.
On the Visit Truly Asia Malaysia 2020 campaign, Mahathir said it was an opportunity as well as a challenge for the country to attract record numbers of visitors to the country and to make it a destination of choice for leisure and business tourists.
“It is hoped that the Visit Truly Asia Malaysia 2020 campaign will succeed in its target of 30 million international tourist arrivals and RM100 billion in tourist receipts, he said.
To achieve this, he said there should be increased flight connectivity from other destinations to Malaysia.
“If we have better air accessibility connecting other cities with Malaysia, we will be able to receive many more tourists,” he said.
He also said there was a need to connect and reach out to “high yield” markets, namely Asean, China, India, the United Kingdom and Germany.
To further strengthen the industry, Mahathir said the government had recently launched the Malaysian Tourism Promotion matching grant fund, or GAMELAN Malaysia.
“The RM5 million special tourism fund is aimed at assisting industry players in their international promotion and marketing programmes to increase international tourist arrivals, while boosting domestic tourism,” he said.
In addition, a RM500 million SME (small and medium-sized enterprises) tourism fund will be made available by SME Bank to assist and expand handicraft and homestay businesses. Under the fund, Mahathir said the government would subsidise interest rates by 2%.
He said this was on top of the allocation of RM1 billion to the Tourism Infrastructure Fund to provide financial assistance to new and existing companies involved in tourism-related activities and services.