Exclusive Interview In Conversation with Razaidi Abdul Rahim : Tourism Malaysia’s foray into India’s renewed MICE & leisure markets

During his visit to Bangalore, Razaidi Abdul Rahim, Director of Tourism Malaysia for South India and Sri Lanka, shared his insights with MICE point magazine, expressing views on tourism trends and strategies for enhancing travel between Malaysia and India.

1. How does Malaysia plan to attract more tourists from India, and what marketing strategies are being implemented?

 During our engagements across India, we’ve strategically targeted Indian travellers through high-profile tourism expos such as the recent Outbound Travel Mart (OTM) in Mumbai from February 8th to 10th, 2024, and the upcoming South Asia Travel & Tourism Exchange (SATTE) in New Delhi from February 12th to 22nd, 2024. Notably, alongside our participation at OTM, we orchestrated a captivating Food and Culture promotional event in Mumbai from February 5th to 11th, 2024. Building on this momentum, we’re currently spearheading a dynamic sales mission across five key cities: Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, and New Delhi, spanning from February 12th to 22nd, 2024. Bangalore, with its robust flight connectivity, emerges as a pivotal hub for Malaysian travel, particularly catering to the influx of travellers from South India. Our mission is bolstered by the participation of 45 organizations, comprised of two (2) state tourism bodies, three (3) airlines, 14 hotel and resort operators, 19 travel agents, six (6) product owners, facilitating fruitful collaborations and exchanges. Recognizing India as the 5th largest source of tourists, we’ve prioritized initiatives to streamline travel processes, such as the implementation of a visa-free policy. Furthermore, we’re actively engaged in enhancing travel infrastructure, with a focus on increasing flight options and reducing airline costs, thereby enhancing accessibility to Malaysia for Indian travellers. Beyond facilitating travel, our marketing strategies are deeply rooted in promoting sustainable tourism practices. We firmly believe that sustainable tourism is not just a trend, but a necessity for preserving our natural and cultural heritage for future generations. Through these efforts, we aim to foster long-term growth while safeguarding our environment.

2. What initiatives is Malaysia taking to facilitate visa-free or visa-on-arrival entry for Indian travellers, and how do you see this impacting tourism from India?

Malaysia has embraced a visa-free travel policy for Indian travellers, eliminating the need for visa-on-arrival or e-visas. This simplifies the travel process significantly, requiring no paperwork; travellers can simply book their flight tickets, pack their bags, and embark on their journey. In the current year, we’ve observed 283,885 Indian tourists among the 16 million visitors to Malaysia. Looking ahead, we’re optimistic about surpassing pre-pandemic tourism levels. In  2019, Malaysia welcomed a record high of 735,000 Indian travellers, and we are confident in our ability to reach and even exceed this figure in the upcoming years. This visa-free policy not only enhances ease of travel but also underscores Malaysia’s commitment to fostering strong and enduring ties with our Indian visitors.

3. How is Malaysia promoting sustainable tourism practices and responsible travel, particularly concerning visitors from India, and are there any specific initiatives in place to minimize the environmental impact of tourism?

In our quest for sustainable tourism practices, Malaysia has pioneered innovative initiatives, including the rural homestay program, offering travellers a chance to delve into the rich cultural fabric of our villages. We recognize the significance of exploring not just picturesque landscapes but also the vibrant cultural heritage Malaysia embodies. Aligned with our commitment to sustainable development goals, initiatives by the government play a pivotal role in shaping our approach to responsible travel. Our tagline, “Truly Asia,” epitomizes our belief that every visitor, particularly from countries like India, isn’t merely a guest but a partner in our journey towards sustainability. Together, we aspire to create a tourism ecosystem that respects and preserves our environment, culture, and communities for generations to come. Through collaborative efforts and a shared vision, we’re confident in positioning Malaysia as a leading sustainable tourism destination in Asia and beyond.

4. Apart from the well-known tourist spots, could you highlight some lesser-known or offbeat destinations in Malaysia that might appeal to Indian travellers seeking unique experiences?

In addition to Malaysia’s renowned tourist destinations, there are hidden gems awaiting exploration, tailored to Indian travellers seeking unique experiences. Take Putrajaya, for instance—a serene oasis nestled amidst Malaysia’s urban landscape, serving as the administrative and judicial capital. Unlike bustling tourist hubs, Putrajaya offers a tranquil escape, characterized by striking architecture, expansive green spaces, and a picturesque man-made lake. At the heart of Putrajaya lies Putra Square, a captivating focal point adorned with architectural marvels like the Putrajaya Mosque and the iconic Putra Bridge, exuding an elegant fusion of modernity and Islamic aesthetics. With nearly 38% of its area dedicated to lush greenery and wetlands, Putrajaya epitomizes sustainability, providing a sanctuary from the rigors of modern life while preserving its ecosystem. Strolling through Putrajaya’s streets evokes a European ambiance, while its government buildings showcase a harmonious blend of contemporary design and Islamic artistry. From the majestic Putra Mosque to the vibrant IOI City Mall, from the tranquil Putrajaya Lake to the enchanting Botanical Garden, Putrajaya offers a myriad of attractions to captivate discerning travellers. Whether seeking a cozy homestay experience or indulging in luxury accommodations, Putrajaya caters to every preference, ensuring a memorable stay for travellers of all backgrounds. Beyond its tangible beauty, Putrajaya represents a testament to Malaysia’s commitment to sustainable urban development and cultural preservationa true embodiment of modernity coexisting harmoniously with nature and tradition.

5. Could you provide insights into the recent trends in the number of Indian tourists visiting Malaysia? How do you plan to maintain or increase these numbers in the coming years?

In 2019, Malaysia reached a peak with 735,000 Indian visitors, showcasing the strong interest in our destination. Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, with 56,700 visitors until November 2020, we’ve been steadily rebuilding momentum. By 2024, we anticipate reaching pre-COVID levels, facilitated by seamless travel processes with minimal paperwork, ensuring a hassle-free experience for Indian travellers. Previously, Indians could enter Malaysia with a visa on arrival, incurring a total cost of RM 200, equivalent to 3,558 Indian rupees. Now, with the introduction of visa-free travel, we’ve removed this cost barrier, positioning Malaysia as a value-for-money destination for Indian travellers. This strategic move is anticipated to catalyse an increase in Indian tourist arrivals. Apart from promoting lifestyle segments, Tourism Malaysia is also focusing on leveraging niche product segments, which could be a significant platform for Malaysia, particularly as a preferred wedding destination for the Indian market. Additionally, we are keen on promoting Malaysia as a destination of choice for film-induced tourism. Considerable incentives are being provided for those interested in filming in Malaysia.

6. What challenges do you anticipate in promoting Malaysian tourism in these regions, and how do you plan to address them?

Anticipating challenges in promoting Malaysian tourism in these regions, we recognize the importance of ensuring a smooth and peaceful travel experience for visitors and their families. To address this, we leverage our network of registered travel agents to provide seamless end-to-end assistance, facilitating every aspect of the journey. With insights from previous statistics, such as the peak of 735,000 Indian visitors in 2019 and the gradual recovery post-pandemic, we understand the significance of streamlining travel processes. For instance, the Malaysia Digital Arrival Card simplifies entry procedures, requiring minimal documentation such as return tickets and financial proofs. This user-friendly approach not only enhances convenience but also reflects our commitment to providing the easiest and most efficient travel experience