For Malaysians, have cheaper options, will travel, says travel agents group

Melati A. Jalil

Tourists walking along Lebuh Armenia in Penang. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, December 30, 2017.

THE weak ringgit and rising cost of living have not forced travel-loving Malaysians to cut down on vacation time, but many are now looking for cheaper alternatives to enjoy their holidays, said the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA). 

While domestic travel remains largely unchanged, Malaysians are now looking at international destinations that are closer to home, such as Southeast Asia, said MATTA president Tan Kok Liang.

“Like people everywhere, we are also cutting down on purchases and giving priority to holidays, travelling once or twice a year,” he told The Malaysian Insight.

“While we are concerned and hope for better days ahead, life has to go on. They are making adjustments to their travelling budgets as well as lifestyle.”

Apart from Southeast Asia, China is a popular destination, he said.

According to a report by Mastercard earlier this year, Malaysians made 11.9 million international outbound trips in 2016, and the number is forecast to grow by an average of 3.5% per year, reaching 14.2 million trips in 2021. 

The report on Future of Outbound Travel in Asia-Pacific (2016 to 2021) said Malaysia is expected to record the highest ratio in outbound travel in relation to the total number of households with 198.7% by 2021, from 178.4% in 2016. 

Malaysia records the highest ratio among emerging markets, and fourth highest after Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

A survey by Tune Protect Group Bhd released in February this year, meanwhile, revealed that nine out of 10 Malaysians 

sought value-for-money holidays, taking shorter trips to destinations where the ringgit value is perceived to be higher. 

“These shorter trips could indicate more intent for travel towards destinations in the Asean region,” the Tune Protect Travel Trend Survey said. 

Group travelling, or signing up for tour group packages, is also a means to cut on vacation costs for some Malaysian families.

Rosalinda Abu Said, 32, said her family preferred to organise travel groups as they make whole-family holidays cheaper. 

“My husband has seven siblings and they will organise a group travel for everyone.

“Recently we just got back from our vacation in Thailand. Our trip to Hat Yai and Songkhla was for three days and two nights, and in total we spent about RM2,000.

“We chartered two buses, so we had almost 80 people joining the trip,” she said. 

The mother-of-two said vacation plans would be discussed eight or months before the trip, to ensure everyone had the time to save money. 

“Or else we will just go to any domestic destinations, as domestic travel is still cheaper,” she said.

Travelling during off-peak seasons was also a strategy for some holiday-loving Malaysians on a budget.

Faizah Azmi, 32, said her family would choose shorter vacations to nearer destinations, and would usually travel during non-holiday seasons.

“Since my kids are still not in school, we don’t have to go on holiday during school break. 

“And I prefer to not bring my kids on overseas holidays because of the unfamiliar environment. Maybe when they are older, we will consider it,” she said, adding that the family usually spends about RM800 for short vacations. 

According to the Department of Statistics, the number of domestic trips increased by 8%, from 235.2 million trips in 2015, to 253.9 million trips last year. 

Travellers have five main reasons for making domestic trips: to visit relatives and friends (43.6%), shop (33.1%), leisure (11.4%), entertainment or attending special events (4%) and for medical treatment (3%). 

The five most visited states by domestic visitors last year were Selangor (24 million), Perak and Kuala Lumpur (16.8 million), Sabah (16.5 million) and Sarawak (16.3 million). 

Domestic tourism expenditure also generated RM66.5 billion last year, with 189.3 million visitors recorded, a growth of 7% compared to 176.9 million in 2015. – December 30, 2017.

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