Interview with Datuk Musa Yusof, director general, Tourism Malaysia
Easier visas, more flights and offbeat destinations on offer
In order to boost the arrivals of Indian travellers, especially for the Visit Malaysia 2020, Malaysia Tourism has eased visa requirements further as well as adding new and exotic sites in the South East Asian nation which is already heavily frequented by Indians.
How is India placed within the ‘Visit Malaysia 2020’ campaign strategy?
India is a very important market to us. From 2018 there is a growth of about 22 pc in term of receipt from the market as well as 8.6 pc growth in term of arrivals to Malaysia from India. For 2020, we are looking to enhance our awareness and make sure that the Indian market is getting back the noise on Malaysia.
We were there in India more than 10 years ago and one of the first destinations to come into the market and we have seen a lot of growth. There are lot more flights now between India and Malaysia and by enhancing our collaborations we need to open this up in India especially on digital platforms. We are collaborating with the tour operators; we are also trying to make sure that the consumers in India are better aware of Malaysia because there are other players coming into the Indian market like Vietnam and Indonesia. Even though they are our neighbours, we are competing for the same market. But, we are also trying to collaborate with each other to bring the traffic to the region as a whole. Instead of one destination, the Indian travellers can move around within several destinations as they do in Europe, for instance.
We are working closely with several Malaysia-based airlines such as Malindo, Air Asia and Malaysian Airlines. Also, as IndiGo has also begun flights to Malaysia, making it the only Indian airline flying into Malaysia. We hope they can add more destinations later on coming from India to Malaysia. And on top of that, we are looking at putting Malaysia as a shooting location for the Indian film producers.
Last year Malaysia received about 600,000 Indian tourists, what is your target for Visit Malaysia 2020?
For 2020, we are looking at least close to 680,000-700,000 Indians to visit Malaysia and we are easing the visa rules for this. E-visas are already in place in India for the past two-three years and India is the only country we have managed to secure multiple entry e-visa for the travellers. And through our three offices in New Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai, we are collaborating with the regions in order to bring in more traffic.
Which are the new source markets you are looking at in India?
The markets we are now looking at are northern Indian places like Chandigarh and Lucknow. We also hope that we can get more traffic from the southern part, where we are actually very strong as flights are coming fully loaded from Chennai. These are basically our traditional markets but we are also looking at other parts like Varanasi from where new flights are being connected. We hope to make more noise in all parts of India to get more traffic to Malaysia.
How do you wish to utilise the digital and social media boom?
We are now collaborating with some of the leading OTAs in India like MakeMyTrip and Yatra and many other tour operators who are working with us. We are not discontinuing all the traditional ones, but we are going into digital formats more and more. On top of that, we are hosting social media influencers, key market leaders in Malaysia because they have a lot of followers. At the same time, we have already reintroduced the mega FAM trip for the whole market, especially for India being one of the biggest, we are looking now to bring in the traffic. We are looking at the combination of Indian media and quality operators.
How do you plan to face the competition?
Well, the strategy is to collaborate with our partners. For example, we are not only bringing traffic into Malaysia, but we are also pushing traffic into Singapore and from Singapore they are coming to Malaysia. We are looking into this kind of collaborations, for example, with Singapore Airlines and Singapore Tourism Board. We are also introducing new resort destinations in Malaysia like the Desaru Coast in the southern part of Malaysia. This type of new product I think is good for the Indian travellers as there are lots of family tours from India and we are looking at putting a lot of importance to that segment into the market. There are other destinations for honeymooners as well as young people visiting Malaysia for shopping and such. We are looking at the psychograph of what Indians need, we have to identify their needs and put it together with what we can offer.
How important is shopping for Indians visiting Malaysia?
Indian tourists love to travel with their families, and they also love to shop. It is also a known fact now that they love to shop in Malaysia in particular. And we find it our responsibility to offer the best shopping experience for the Indians during various time periods of the year. Attractive discounted offers not only from the shopping malls but also from our Malaysian air carriers, hotels, as well as easy e-visa, are making the Indians happier and they are finding it comfortable to shop here. Our shopping buddy, Miss SHOPhia is also doing a good job!
Are you working to improve flight connectivity further?
In terms of flight connectivity, we are working with all the Malaysian airlines. We are also asking the Indian airlines to fly into Malaysia because currently, the Malaysia-based airlines are using all their allotments. So, we are really looking at welcoming the Indian carriers. IndiGo is already there! At the tourism board and the Malaysian airport holding, we have this incentive to collaborate with the airlines when they start flying to Malaysia and we are looking forward to that.
Malaysia is already offering e-visa to the Indians. What’s more?
For the Indians only, we have extended the service of multiple entry e-visa systems. We are looking at making it easier in terms of the application process for the Indians travelling to Malaysia. We are still negotiating but perhaps may offer some more discounts in visa fees or perhaps may waive it. A lot of discussions are going on to make travelling to Malaysia easier and hassle-free for the Indians from all parts of this big country.