The bilateral relationship between the UAE and Malaysia goes back in time as the country offers Visa-on-Arrival to GCC Nationals, while major airlines such as Emirates Airlines, Etihad Airways, Saudi, Qatar Airways, offer direct flights to Malaysia. His Excellency Mohd Tarid Bin Sufian, Ambassador of Malaysia to the United Arab Emirates, shares with TRAVTALK their plans for 2021.
Q Could you share the importance of the GCC market to Malaysia?
In 2019, Malaysia welcomed 309,224 tourists from the GCC. This amounted to a tourist expenditure of RM 3.2 billion (AED 2.8 billion) that year, signifying the highest (per capita expenditure) as compared to other tourists to Malaysia. Considering the current state of international travel, we are looking at the year 2025 for travel to return to normal and have earmarked the GCC as one of our important markets. In late December 2020, our Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, launched Malaysia’s National Tourism Policy 2020-2030, giving concrete direction for the future of Malaysia’s tourism industry over the next 10 years, emphasizing the importance of recovery, connections, and sustainability.
Malaysia was recently named the number one destination for Muslim travellers for the eighth consecutive year, based on factors such as the availability of halal food, access to prayer facilities, Muslim-friendly services in hotels, and overall safety and security. As increasing numbers of Muslims are travelling around the world, the demand for halal tourism offerings is expected to grow exponentially once the travel industry regains its footings. Malaysia understands the needs of the GCC tourists and therefore ensures that halal food is easily available with an array of local and international cuisines, including Arab food.
Q How important was it to participate at the first travel trade physical event?
The relationship between Malaysia and United Arab Emirates goes back to many years and we have very strong diplomatic ties particularly at a very high level. Tourism is an integral part of Malaysia when it comes to strengthening bilateral relations. After 18 months of what the world has been facing, participation at the Arabian Travel Market is very important to us not only to further bilateral cooperation but in terms of people to people contact to regain the confidence of the travellers as well as to bring some sense of normality for the economy in Malaysia and for the people all over the world.
Q What are the initiatives taken to open borders?
As Malaysia is on its way to a nationwide vaccination campaign as a pillar for a safe border reopening and prepares to welcome tourists to the country, Malaysia is excited to once again showcase its stunning destinations and rich history and culture to travellers flying in. The country offers Visa-on-Arrival to GCC nationals, while major airlines from the region such as Emirates Airlines, Etihad Airways, Saudi, Qatar Airways and more, offer direct flights to Malaysia. The country is already open for investors & business travellers. The approved short-term business travellers are exempted from the mandatory quarantine. Detailed information on the procedures can be found at https://safetravel.mida.gov.my.
Prior to the pandemic, tourists from all over the world visited Malaysia to explore its beautiful landmarks and experience the warm hospitality as they immersed in its rich culture. Times have changed and the country cannot wait to once again welcome travellers to its bustling cities and tranquil islands. In line with this, Tourism Malaysia has launched the campaign #WeMissYou, especially for the Middle East region, to emphasize the nostalgia it has for the travellers wandering around the magnificent attractions that Malaysia offers.
Q What will you show-case at Expo 2020?
The Malaysia Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai, with the theme ‘Energising Sustainability’, serves as Malaysia’s overall participation at Expo 2020, led by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation with Malaysian Green Technology and Climate Change Centre as the implementing agency. Malaysia Ministry of Tourism is also set to fly in a cultural troupe to enthrall Expo 2020 visitors with daily cultural shows and craft demonstrations at the Malaysia Pavilion’s amphitheatre, where visitors will get a captivating glimpse of how Malaysia is ‘Truly Asia’, with its diverse cultures and people of multi-ethnicities living in harmony, contributing to the nation’s progress.
Q Could you share with us your tourism plan for the ME market?
Tourism Malaysia has conducted consistent studies and research to better formulate an equipped tourism plan for the Middle East market. Its research has shown that post-pandemic travel trends will include tourists travelling in smaller groups to less crowded areas with preferences for personalised tours. Post-lockdown, Malaysia is banking on its majestic nature and highlands to attract tourists from the region. Set amidst a rich bio-diverse location, the Desaru Coast is a new integrated resort that features a portfolio of globally renowned hotels such as Hard Rock Hotel Desaru Coast, The Westin Desaru Coast Resort, Anantara Desaru Coast Resort & Villas, and One&Only Desaru Coast where all the properties span a pristine beachfront.