LETTER | Statistics for last year’s visitor arrivals have just been released by Tourism Malaysia, and the total number that came was 25,832,354, a drop of 0.4 percent, or 116,105 fewer visitors compared to the previous year.
There were less visitors from nine countries, with Singapore leading the pack. Their numbers dropped from 12,441,713 to 10,615,986, (14.7 percent). This was followed by Brunei dropping from 1,660,506 to 1,382,031 (16.8 percent).
The other seven countries with lesser number of visitors to Malaysia were New Zealand, Sweden, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Laos, Nepal and Ireland.
But there was an increase of tourists from 37 other countries to make up the shortfall.
Although Tourism Malaysia did not achieve its initial target of 33.1 million visitors, the results are, nevertheless, satisfactory, considering that tourists from Indonesia rose by a hefty 17.2 percent and China an astounding 29 percent.
Another important market is South Korea, which went up by 27.3 percent, and Vietnam, with a rapidly increasing middleclass, shot up by 50.9 percent.
Perhaps the best barometer for Tourism Malaysia’s international promotional campaign is measured by visitors from the United States. It went up by 27.8 percent, well done!
Now that the whole year’s results are out, it is an opportune time to debunk the claim that Malaysia lost a huge amount of China tourists during the Golden Week from Oct 1 to 7 last year. It was reported in “China tourist arrivals plunge during peak period” (Oct 9, 2018), that 180,000 Chinese tourists came to Malaysia during the Golden Week in 2017 and the number dropped by 35 percent in 2018.
The 180,000 figure was wrong, as there were 195,219 China visitors for the whole month of Oct 2017, and the number went up to 238,797 or 22.3 percent last October. Contrary to the fear of a 10 percent drop of China visitors as reported, the number had increased by 29 percent for last year.
The media should interview more reliable sources for their reports, as individual respondents can only offer views from their angles. For example, tour operators can only gauge the situation based on their own business volume, likewise hoteliers on their room occupancy.
But increasing number of tourists are free independent travellers who don't join tour groups or make travel arrangements with tour operators. Many book direct with budget airlines, travel around using e-hailing services and stay in private accommodation booked online.
Although they bypass traditional tourism players, they are still bona fide tourists and should be welcomed. This market is most responsive to digital marketing, which has been the main thrust of Tourism Malaysia.
While it is imperative to attract more visitors, it is more important to get them to spend more. The most effective way is making known to them the variety of goods and services available, instead of taking for granted they already know.
For example, tourism industry players could combine resources and collaborate with the authorities to produce video clips on the range of local products available, so that visitors can watch in their hotel rooms or smartphone, directing them to specific locations in the city where these goods and services can be bought or experienced.
Promotional videos on various attractive destinations are good for drawing visitors to our country. But when they are in Langkawi, they want to know what they can do for the day and are not interested in information or watching videos of other places in the country.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.