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Malaysia has invested in a wide range of tourism destinations for tourists. This country is blessed with diverse cultures, traditions and histories, coupled with different landscapes and natural resources; the country has built a strong and fascinating appeal for both local and international tourists. Tourism sector, therefore, is of great importance to Malaysia’s economy as one of the major foreign exchange revenue or earnings second to the manufacturing industry.
Malaysia is a country situated in the Southeast Asia spanning from approximately 1ËšN to 6Ëš45ÌÌÍ´N latitude and 99Ëš36Í´E to 104Ëš24Í´E longitude, consisting of thirteen states and three Federal Territories, with a landmass of approximately 329,845 square kilometres (127,354 sq mi). The country is divided into two parts: Peninsular Malaysia and Malaysia Borneo “also known as East Malaysia” by the South China Sea.
Malaysia gained its independence on 31st August, 1957. It is surrounded by many countries in Southeast Asia such as: Thailand in the north, Singapore in the south and Philippines in the north-east, Indonesia in the south and south-west, Malaysia has a long coastline in the Peninsular Malaysia. It borders the Strait of Malacca, which is an important international shipping cross-path, and contributes positively in the development of international trade which forms an integral part to its economy.
Malaysia is bio-diversified with range of flora and fauna, with picturesque coastal plains rising to the hills and mountains. These conglomerate scenic natural beauty along with a diversity of cultures, races and ethnicity contributes immensely to the development of Malaysia.
Tourism investment was endorsed by Malaysian government in the early 90s and it was projected to become one of the main stay of Malaysia’s economy by contributing to her income revenue by a whopping 85% growth in the 21st century.
Malaysia has grown over the years to be one of the biggest players in tourism. Just like other developed and developing countries, Malaysia has invested heavily in tourism, which has grown to be among the world class and as a result tourism has become one of the major revenue for nation’s wealth.
Following the full endorsement of tourism by Malaysian government, full scale analysis was conducted to see how they can harness the richness of natural resources and bio-diversified nature of the Malaysian environs. There are various aspects that contribute to the Malaysian tourism industry, which is the amalgam of: nature, heritage, culture, diverse races, tradition and religious diversity, facilities and its activities. (Peters R.F) stated that based on Malaysia’s strong natural features of outstanding scenery, natural environments and unique living organisms, nature tourism, a sub-sector of tourism, is a prospect to be capitalized on further.
Based on the growing interest cultural/heritage tourism and global influx of tourists in Penang and Malacca has improved the scope of tourism in Malaysia without undermining every landscape of tourist attraction site. In the early 90’s, Nature tourism was also considered to be a relatively sub-sector of tourism that was contributing up to 7% to 15% of the overall industry and was expected to grow up to 50% by 20th century.
The tourism industry has grown over the years from inception to this present day by a whopping 75% growth. In 1990s the sector contributes just 7% to 15% to the economy of this country (Hill, 1994; Pleumarom, 1997). (Fdi Tourism Industry in Malaysia) reveals that the tourism industry reported an increasing trend from 2000 to 2005. They further anticipated that the Tourist arrivals are expected to grow at an average rate of 6.9 per cent per annum to reach 14.3 million by 2005. Tourism receipts are targeted to grow at an average annual rate of 9.5 per cent to reach RM 29.5 billion in 2005 says (FDi Tourism in Malaysia).
In 2010 at the tourism destination conference, tourism has now taken a leading position in National key economic areas (NKEAs). The tourism sector being a strong contributor is just not a new finding as its contribution has received widespread recognition in the country. (The tourism destination conference for 2010) reveals that the tourism receipt for 2009 was at RM 53.367.7 million, with 23.65 million tourist arrivals, making this industry the second largest income earner for the country in the same year and though these figures are laudable, it is said that the ‘local tourism sector has not been exploited to its potential’ (Y.B. Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib, 3rd March 2010). In 2009, Malaysia made it into top 10 most visited countries in the world, and was confidently placed in the 9th position below turkey and Germany. This remark shows that Malaysia’s tourism sector has pulled international recognition and has gained force of attraction that draws the attention of tourists all around the continents of the world to choose Malaysia as their tourism destination.
The social impact of tourism in Malaysia is indelible and will sustain a world record in the nearest future. In a country with a diverse nationality, diverse race, culture and religion, it has proven to me that understanding, tolerance and acceptance are part of the key values that is keeping Malaysia at the top among the top tourist destination countries in the world today. The masterminds behind the success of the tourism sector and the presiding body over the entire nation have grown beyond looking at inequalities in religion, social status, race, nationality and focus on how they can harness these differences to pull greater force by converting these differences into wealth, recognition and success.
Malaysia being an Islamic country could have created a more negative social impact on the drive for world best tourism zone based on the rules and fundamentals of the Islamic faith, but in the face of the world, Malaysia hit a solid breakthrough in accommodating the entire world regardless of their faith or background to launch a new face of dynamic leadership in tourism and still keeping their faiths intact without blemish.
Liberal minds at the helm of affairs in Malaysia, who are blessed with a strong drive to make her citizens to stand for values that promote oneness such as tolerance, respect, honour, truth and justice. Capitalizing on the strength of beauties all around the cities down to the rural communities has bridge the gap of change to social interaction within and to the entire world. The flexibility in government policies to make Malaysia an international meeting ground for all nationalities in the world has made Malaysia to gain a vibrant stand to improve social interaction for tourist prospects.
The advent of tourism in Malaysia initiated the need for infrastructures which is continually fulfilled as need arises. The social impact of tourism has improved the basic living standard for tourists and locals, which has grown tremendously and in return has influenced the style of living of the inhabitant of Malaysia.
The tourism industry is fragmented in nature. It consists of small shareholders working in different tourism business area, including: lodging, food, travel and leisure said by (Mostafa N, Mehran N). The improvement and cooperation contributed by the stakeholders has a holistic approach to the entire structure and deficiency from any sector of the shareholders will ruin and spoil the good experience that the tourists would have experienced.
The social impact could be felt in other areas within the country: such as the provision of various flexible, affordable and assessable mode of navigation within Malaysia and a good road map that provide readily made information about road navigation. The further improvement on this area is internet accessibility of road networks through (GPS) Global positioning system.
Coupled with the Malaysia’s tremendous growth in tourism, cultural/heritage is emerging in the categorical tourism sub-sector as a potential form of alternative tourism for both domestic travellers as well as international tourists. (Prof Badaruddin M) stated that cultural tourism in Malaysia attracted great publicities with increase in the number of incoming tourists annually. Malaysia is rich in cultural tourism resources that has over the years been abandoned but they have finally been realised through cooperate effort of the shareholders and the stakeholders in the industry. Examples of impressive cultural tourism resources available in Malaysia are the existence of historical buildings, colourful lifestyles, multi-cultural and friendly atmosphere. Giving these aspects a governmental involvement promotion as well as related strategies and policies that will support the growth more than what is currently assessable will boost the tourism sector further.
Heritage and culture in tourism is very important aspect in this industry as it showcase the values embedded and the values in the ancestral lifestyle remnants and the change in lifestyle over the years. (Badaruddin M) further highlighted that the relationship between tourism and culture can take forms and the result can be viewed negatively and positively when meeting of hosts and visitors occurs and possibly leads to transformation of the hosts’ culture. Example of this perhaps can be drawn from the culture of the western world and the Arabs. Over the years, the citizens from Arab nations have been travelling to Europe for tourism and many have migrated for exposure into the glamour of the west but because of certain believe and culture that prohibits some of the lifestyle in the west has resulted in clash of interest between few progressive and fundamental peoples.
World Tourism Organization (1985) defines cultural tourism as the movements of persons for essentially culturally motivation such as study tours, performing arts and cultural tours; travel to festivals and other related events. And culture is further defined from the (National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, 2005) perspective to be based on mosaic of places, traditions, art forms, celebrations and experiences that portray ones nation and its people.
Culture is defined as quoted in Meethan (2001:117) “as a set of practices, based on form of knowledge, which encapsulate common values and act as general guiding principles. It is through these forms of knowledge that distinctions are created and maintained, so that for example, one culture is marked off different from another”.
Heritage tourism could be a subtype of cultural tourism. These two classes of tourism has become a grown segment of the tourism market place in Malaysia. This aspect has appeared to have been highly motivated for different reasons than traditional tourism.
The culture and heritage has over the years attracted the attention of the tourist shareholders and has grown to become a huge market place. Malaysia does not contain a unitary culture but it could be perceived to be diverse in reality because of the racial differences. Malaysia is made up of three nationalities: Malays, who are said to be the first and original inhabitant of this land has the largest population of 50%, the Chinese are said to have migrated into this country in the early 20th century for business and became very relevant contributor to the nation building through their impact in successful trade and the struggle for independence. The Chinese are said to take 30% share of the population of Malaysia, and finally the Indians who also migrated into this country in the early days of colonial era take 20% share of the population. These three races have differences in culture that is making Malaysia to have a major breakthrough in tourism as the shareholders in this sector have harness the cultural difference to bring about beauty and wealth into this land instead of chaos. This cultural vibrancy has been manifested and successful through the promotional slogan drive “Malaysia Truly Asia” and the current slogan that is acting as a catalyst to the unity and growth of the nation in tourism, which is “1 Malaysia”. Malaysia is also known for its distinctive multicultural architecture with strong Islamic, Chinese, Indian and western influences; which have been portrayed in the heritage buildings.
Malaysia’s heritage elements for tourism are: historic sites, unique local cultures and historic buildings are common in many historic states and cities in Malaysia. The inventory of heritage buildings reveals that over 30,000 heritage buildings are located in 162 cities throughout the country said (Idid, 1996) this figure shows that 69.6% of this heritage buildings are shop houses that are built before World War II.
These buildings have contributed their quota to the success of the tourism industry in Malaysia whereby the unique colonial architectural styles of buildings is playing a major role in the creation of historic states and city such as: Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur, Kuching, George Town and Taiping. In order to sustain these buildings and to make them worth much roots by neglecting the negative impact of the past into a revenue for more financial income that will boost the economy of the country, the sustenance and management of these culture and heritage buildings was placed under the Ministry of Tourism and culture, combining department of Culture from Ministry of Culture, Youths and Sports with the Malaysian Tourism Department Corporation from the ministry of Trade and Industries, but the ministry was later renamed into ministry of culture, Arts and Tourism and also later dualised into two partitions such Ministry of tourism and Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage (Kraftangan Malayisa). This structural adjustment has a great effect on the concentration and responsibilities of each department without mincing duties and responsibilities. Some of the agencies placed under this ministry are: National Art and Gallery, Department of Museum and Antiquities, Malaysian Handicrafts, national Archives, National Art academy, national library and the Culture Palace including the National Film Development Corporation (Finas). Reports shows that this motion was carried out to strengthen the ministries but might have an impact on the focus of cultural and heritage tourism in the nearest future.
There is no doubt that rapid growth in Malaysian tourism has relied heavily on the country’s natural heritage including the many offshore islands along both the western and eastern coastlines of the peninsula, together with protected nature reserves. Promoting heritage and culture is facing several underlying issues in Malaysia that are relatively complex to the society living in Malaysia. Some of the issues cut across so many areas such as:
Though Malaysia is proud of being a multicultural society that is continually promoted on the media as “1-Malaysia” and “Truly Asia”, the question at the forefront of this media slogan outcry is that whose culture should be promoted? The Chinese and Indians society are feeling marginalised that their cultures are not well promoted in the tourism prospectus provided by the government, which has been a major concern for the other parties as their culture are thrown behind the media front. Similar issue of outcry was also raised by the Malays in Penang and Malacca during the nomination process for the listing of Penang and Malacca into the world heritage city. This ethnic group believes that the listings do not favour them and the island’s Malay history is not giving consideration in this respect. They felt that the listing of the 12000 heritage buildings were colonial buildings and the Malays therefore calls it a new colonization of the country, lamenting on why their colonial past has to be glorified by their government.
Tourism in Malaysia has been transformed to become a significant factor in the development of culture and heritage in two ways: as a support and as a threat. Culture has the potential of supporting or inhibiting the growth of tourism. There has so far been no specific attempt to study the value of cultural attractions from the point of view of the tourists. Tourism authorities and promotional consultants simply assume that the cultural elements of a plural society are attractive. Further questions can be raised as to whether it is the ‘staged culture’ or the ‘street culture’ that is more appealing to outsiders. According to Kadir Din (1997), ‘street culture’ depicts the scenes of everyday life that can be readily observed by tourists in their natural setting, as opposed to ‘staged culture’ which refers to contrived staged presentations, which are specifically prepared for the tourist. Not until recently does Malaysia began to realize the values embedded in the importance of heritage tourism because of the influx of tourists into the country for cultural heritage visit and how it has generated substantial income for he nation. Malaysia has long years of association with imperial countries such as Portugal, Japan, and Britain. From findings Malaysia is said to possess two major natural world heritage sites in Kinabalu Park and Gunung Mulu National Park. Kadir Din (1997) concludes that in terms of government allocations of funds for tourism, and of coverage by the promotional media, there seems to be a belief that staged culture contributes more to tourism than street culture. As mentioned above, the nomination of Penang and Melaka includes the conservation of cultural elements of the society. However, with so much pressure and development that have taken place, one may wonder how this society can conserve its cultural elements to remain authentic. We may also wonder whether what is left is still authentic? A similar comment can be made on the staging of the massive festival of ‘Citrawarna’. A cultural parade of various ethnic groups in Malaysia, Perhaps copying the success of the Samba Festival in Brazil or the New Orleans Parade or perhaps the Gion Matsuri (festival) in Kyoto Japan, the Citrawarna Malaysia has a lot of colours but lack authenticity and also history!
Malaysia as a tourism destination for millions of people around the world, one of the greatest concerns for tourist is the issue of safety and security. Although Malaysia has suffered from several other lesser crises including economic crises amongst others, with tourism increasingly threatened by international terrorism such as terrorism targeting tourists in Indonesia, Mombasa, Kenya in October 2002 respectively, and Bombay in India, and in the Philippines, which is continuously posing greater challenges, worries and fears towards sustainability of tourism in Asia. Another major recent mishaps that will increase the fears of tourist choosing Malaysia as their tourist destination is the case of religious crisis that emanated from the argument between the Catholic Church and the Islamic fundamentalist in Malaysia that resulted into the arson attack against some churches in some major cities in Malaysia.
Religion being a sensitive areas and has been used by some religious fundamentalists of different faith to spring up political and economic crisis around the globe might send a wrong signal to tourists who have chosen this part of the world as their tourist destination.
I have lived in Malaysia for academic activities and, I can testify positively to the rate of acceptance of foreigners by the locals, the peaceful co-existence among the divers ethnic groups in Malaysia, I can testify to the security measure by the government through the police and other law enforcement agencies, I can testify to visual security camera technology festooned around the highways and sensitive areas around Malaysia to curb crimes and mishaps and to ensure safety and security of life and properties, I can testify to the uninterrupted and unfailing communication systems available around the nooks and cranny of Malaysia for faster communication and report delivery, these and more are one of the strongholds of Malaysia to provide adequate security measures to ensure safety for tourists.
Crisis management is one the backbone of tourist destinations and it has been a recognised concept since 1962 during the Cuban missile crisis. Crisis management is well established in developed countries than developing countries but Malaysia being driven by determination for competition with developed countries cannot be underestimated when it comes to crisis management. Malaysia recognises what it means to be recognised as the preferred location for tourists’ destination and they are living up to and exceeding the expectations of their visitors.
I have no worry asking too many questions on how they have been able to overcome the challenges of crisis management as I bumped into to pre-crisis analysis on Safety and security in tourism: relationships, management, and marketing (By Colin Michael Hall, Dallen J. Timothy, and David Timothy Duval), which reveals how crisis management can be better improved by through pre-crisis analysis. Malaysia has history of crisis that can be learnt from but not as much in terms of international tourism. Lessons can be derived from crisis history of other nation and the challenges they face and how they were able to overcome these challenges. United States of America, United Kingdom, and Australia among others are the countries that Malaysia has derived lessons from when it comes to crisis management to foster their tourism business.
Both the formulation and evaluation of a crisis management plan may be a source of difficulty especially in tourism given the fragmented nature of the industry.
Testimonies gathered from people around the world who have chosen Malaysia as their tourist destination have had cause to come over and over again based on the delightful experience encountered in their previous visit. Reports on the growth of tourists each year from 2000 to date has shown tremendous increase in the business of tourism in Malaysia.
There are different factors that pose negative economic impacts on tourism, in case where tourists don’t respect the traditions, culture or local life style of tourist destination, or seasonal jobs such as people are only employed when there are only high influx of tourist, which can lead to high rates of unemployment, furthermore, jobs involved in the tourism industry are seasonal and not well paid, this can be very dangerous for countries that has full become dependent on tourism as their main source of revenue.
Infrastructure and incidental cost, this situation could occur when there is record or receipt of high level of damage on infrastructures than the amount earn from tourist visits
Economic dependence, if Malaysia eventually solely dependent on tourism may pose danger to their economy, this can cause the tourism sector to change overnight because of the natural disaster, terrorism, changing consumer taste and economic recession in the source of the country.
Leakage, if Malaysia becomes a victim of leakage the high proportion of the money spent by tourists that leaves the country. Thus, leakage can have major impact in 3 areas such as:
Tourist purchase of goods and services that have been imported.
Hotels and other tourism related businesses and organization import goods/foods as the local product are not available or not up to the required standards
Profits are repatriated by foreign owners of hotels and other services.
Inflation could spike up goods and services in general level of prices or a fall in the purchasing power of money. Therefore, tourism can increase the value or price of land, building etc.
Malaysia ranks 6th amongst the preferred destination for Chinese travellers after Macau, Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea and Thailand, as per a study by Taylor Nelson Sofres (TNS), a global market insight and information group. From this statement one can deduce that Malaysia still lacking in some areas that can pull more forces than their competitors. The secret lies in dynamic nature of other Asian countries that happened to have drawn more customers than the other. This might a strong belief in the religious tension that pops up intermittently within the country and more so Malaysia can further harness all the untapped tourism resources that are yet to outgrown research areas.
Like its Asean neighbors, Malaysia too regards tourism as a very important sector that brings the much-needed foreign exchange, new jobs and businesses.
The positive social economic impact on a tourist destination cannot be stressed enough as Gartner (1996, pp. 64), “the money brought into an area through the process of hosting tourists provides more economic returns than simply the sum of the expenditures accruing to the few businesses that come in direct contact with tourists. The impact of tourism in a country benefits all sectors of an economy as the benefits from all these sectors can also still be used sustaining the development practices of the host nation.
Tourism has over the years been beneficial as well as harmful for local economies. The debate goes on that whether it is blight or a blessing? Experiences of destination vary in this regard. However, past records have shown that if tourism is not developed and managed properly negative impacts will take over and kill the destination in the long run.
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