Malaysia sees signs of European comeback

‘Substantial’ growth in European arrivals after years of decline

After five years of continuous year-on-year decline from European inbound markets to Malaysia, the country saw an increase in January and February 2018 over the corresponding period in 2017, believed to be the result of intensified B2B marketing.

Tourism Malaysia director-general, Mirza Mohammad Taiyab, said statistics could not yet be revealed, but let on that the increase was “substantial”.

He shared his optimism at a press conference yesterday that the number of arrivals from Europe will continue to grow moving forward as Tourism Malaysia has made efforts to increase its visibility in Europe.

Working in close collaboration to market Malaysia to European agents are Tourism Malaysia, the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) and its affiliate member, the European Travel Agents and Tour Operators Associations (ECTAA).

Efforts include the signing an MoU with ECTAA in 2016, which makes Malaysia the association’s preferred destination partner in 2018. Through the agreement, ECTAA will highlight the diverse travel and tourism products in Malaysia to its members across European countries.

Mirza stressed that the marketing focus for Europe for this year was on B2B initiatives.

ECTAA’s 117th semi-annual meeting, held in Kuala Lumpur from May 7 to 9, saw the participation of 46 delegates from 25 associations in Europe to create awareness about the destination with sessions including briefings from Tourism Malaysia and Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau.

ECTAA members also shared with Tourism Malaysia on the challenges and the destination’s strengths in attraction European tourists, which according to ECTAA president Merika Hallik included good weather, variety of nature based attractions, good beaches and friendly service.

Tourism Malaysia, in cooperation with various Malaysian states, has also planned 4D/3N post tours that cover Selangor, Langkawi and Sabah.

This year, Tourism Malaysia is targeting 1.5 million tourists from Europe, from 1.1 million arrivals in 2017. The target for 2019 is 1.6 million and 1.7 million for 2020.

There have also been improvements in air connectivity between Malaysia and Europe, especially in 4Q2018 when Germany’s Condor Air commenced its thrice-weekly services between Frankfurt and Kuala Lumpur, and TUI Group launched its Fly & Cruise programme.

Tourism Malaysia has also initiated joint marketing efforts with foreign airlines that service both Europe and Malaysia through their hubs, namely Turkish Airlines, Emirates Airline, Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and Singapore Airlines.

TUI Group is initiating a new Fly & Cruise programme to Malaysia that may help reverse a decline in arrivals from key European markets and the country’s cruise tourism sector.

The programme, from December 20 until March 29, 2019, will see TUI offering direct flights to Langkawi, thereafter regional cruises out of Langkawi for its European customers.

Langkawi (pictured above) will be where TUI’s cruise ships will be homeporting

Passengers will arrive on three fortnightly flights on a 787 Dreamliner from three UK airports (Gatwick, Manchester and Birmingham) to Langkawi.

With TUI’s cruise ship homeporting in Langkawi, all passengers will spend at least one night in Langkawi before embarking on a 14-day itinerary which will include Penang, Port Klang and Malacca, as well as Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand.

The total potential capacity is expected to be about 7,200 passengers in the first year of operation, Tourism Malaysia said in a press statement.

Tourism Malaysia’s director-general, Mirza Mohammad Taiyab, said: “This initiative by TUI Group will strongly boost the visibility of Malaysia across all European source markets. At the same time, our position as an international transportation hub will increase and add value to our economy.”

“This initiative also supports the Visit Malaysia 2020 campaign that is projected to welcome 36 million tourists to Malaysia and register RM168 billion (US$43.3 billion) in tourist receipts for the country,” said Mirza.

Frank Vahldiek, director international partnerships of TUI Group said: “Our strategic priority is to drive growth in all-year destinations – and Asia is one of the key growth regions. Our European customers show an ever growing interest to visit countries such as Malaysia.

Currently, all three cruise companies of TUI – TUI Cruises, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, and UK-based Marella Cruises – have now included Malaysia’s three ports-of-call including one homeport (Langkawi, Port Klang and Penang) in their programmes.

Another major development in 4Q2018 is the commencement of Germany’s Condor Air thrice-weekly services between Frankfurt and Kuala Lumpur, the only airline to service this route.

Both TUI’s Fly & Cruise programme and the new flights by Condor Air will hopefully arrest declining visitors numbers from major markets in Europe to Malaysia. Last year, arrivals from Germany declined by 15.7 per cent to 109,816 tourists over 2016, the UK dropped by 10.4 per cent to 358,818, while arrivals from Switzerland dipped 22 per cent to 20,775 tourists.