08/11/2023 09:06 AM
Opinions on topical issues from thought leaders, columnists and editors.

By Akmal Adanan

The tabling of Budget 2024 by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who is also Finance Minister, holds great promise for the country’s tourism industry. The tourism sector has long been regarded as a vital contributor to Malaysia’s economy, owing to its rich cultural diversity, natural treasures, and unique attractions.

Thus, the budget allocates substantial resources to rejuvenate the tourism sector, emphasising its important role in economic growth.

Budget Highlights for Tourism and Creative Industries

Firstly, one of the key developments is the decision to reinstate Tahun Melawat Malaysia (Visit Malaysia Year) in 2026, with the ambitious goal of welcoming 26.1 million foreign tourists and achieving domestic spending of RM97.6 billion.

This commitment is a bold step towards revitalising Malaysia’s position as a premier global tourism destination. To achieve this, the government has set aside RM350 million for promotional activities aimed at regaining Malaysia’s status as a preferred global tourism destination.

These efforts include organising the Kempen Melawat Malaysia 2026 (Visit Malaysia 2026 Campaign), collaborating with the industry on domestic and international tourism promotion, supporting over 200 cultural enthusiasts in hosting artistic and cultural events, matching grants for chartered flights to improve international accessibility, and providing funds to the Islamic Tourism Centre (ITC) to enhance Muslim-friendly tourism in Malaysia.

The budget acknowledges the significance of preserving and maintaining tourist attractions, historical sites, and cultural heritage.

Furthermore, RM20 million is earmarked for state governments to maintain and restore tourism hotspots, including Tasik Timah Tasoh in Perlis, Kenong Rimba Park in Pahang, and Pantai Teluk Kemang in Negeri Sembilan. Additionally, RM80 million is allocated for the conservation and restoration of heritage sites with UNESCO potential, such as Gua Niah in Sarawak, Lembah Bujang in Kedah, and Royal Belum in Perak.

The commitment of RM20 million to Think City for the revitalisation of Kuala Lumpur as a creative and cultural hub is a testament to the government’s forward-looking approach.

The Tourism Industry’s Contribution to National Development

The budget has demonstrated the government’s understanding of the crucial role that tourism plays in propelling Malaysia’s economic recovery through employment, foreign exchange earnings, and fostering sustainable development. Recognising the substantial contributions of the tourism and manufacturing sectors to national development, the government is committed to introducing new initiatives under the Malaysia Visa Liberalisation Plan.

The three actions outlined in the budget are:

  • To simplify the approval process for Employment Passes for strategic investors in key sectors,
  • Introducing Long-Term Social Visit Passes for international students who have completed their studies, and
  • Enhancing facilities for Visa-On-Arrival, social visit passes, and offering Multiple Entry Visas to encourage the entry of tourists and investors, particularly from India and China.

Moreover, the government has also agreed to ease the existing conditions for Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) applications, aiming to boost the influx of foreign tourists and investors to Malaysia.

The Need for Investment in Technology and AI Applications

While the budget’s allocations for tourism are commendable, it is essential to highlight the imperative of technology, especially Artificial Intelligence (AI) applications, in enhancing the industry’s competitiveness in the future. In the year 2024 and beyond, the global tourism landscape will rapidly evolve, with travellers becoming increasingly tech-savvy and reliant on digital tools for planning and experiencing their journeys.

Therefore, Malaysia must not only keep up with these trends but also strive to lead the way in technological innovation. By harnessing the power of data analytics, AI helps to provide valuable insights into traveller preferences, behaviours, and emerging trends. This, in turn, can help in tailoring tourism products and services to meet evolving demands through efficient Data-Driven Decision Making.

The technologies can also enable personalised experiences for tourists, for example, chatbots that can provide real-time assistance to travellers, helping them find the best attractions, accommodations, and dining options based on their preferences. In assisting the Tahun Melawat Malaysia 2026 initiatives, AI can play a crucial role in targeted marketing and promotion. It can analyse consumer data to identify potential markets, create personalised marketing campaigns, and track their effectiveness.

The budget allocation for AI is also important to optimise operations within the tourism sector, reducing costs and enhancing efficiency. For instance, AI-powered chatbots and automated check-in systems in hotels can streamline processes, saving time and resources.

Thus, the utilisation of AI in tourism can significantly enhance the visitor experience in Malaysia, improve operational efficiency, and contribute to the industry’s sustainable growth.

Navigating Human Resource Quality in Tourism

Improving and maintaining the quality of human resources in the tourism industry is essential for providing excellent service and ensuring the sustainability of the sector. A well-planned budget can play a crucial role in achieving this goal.

It is recommended that the government allocate a specific budget for human resource development to ensure readiness for hosting tourists. Among the important areas the government should consider are education and training, customer service excellence, support language and cultural training, quality control and certification, data and technology adoption, and many more.

More Incentives for Domestic Tourists

Incorporating incentives for domestic tourists into the budget is an economic strategy with wide-ranging benefits. The government could introduce several incentives, such as tax deductions, travel vouchers youth and student discounts, travel subsidies for vulnerable groups, local tourism packages, and frequent traveller rewards.

By boosting local tourism, it can stimulate economic activities, support local businesses, encourage infrastructure development, preserve cultural heritage, contribute to environmental sustainability, and promote national unity.

Paving the Path to a Brighter Tourism Future

To conclude, the national budget for 2024 holds great promise for Malaysia’s tourism industry, recognising its significance in economic development. To ensure a brighter future for this sector, it is hoped that the government will allocate more resources to technology, especially AI applications, and train more AI tourism experts to drive substantial economic growth in the tourism sector.

Dealing with the highly competitive global tourism industry, Malaysia must make a concerted effort to leverage cutting-edge technologies to stay ahead of these changes, providing real-time insights and remaining attractive to international travellers.

This collaborative strategic investment between tourism products, marketing, and technologies will enhance competitiveness, stimulate economic growth, provide personalised and immersive experiences for tourists, and contribute to the industry’s sustainability.


Akmal Adanan is Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Hotel and Tourism Management, UiTM Melaka Campus.

(The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of BERNAMA)