Tourism Development in Malaysia. A Review on Federal Government Policies

Article excerpt

1. INTRODUCTION

Malaysia covers a land area of 329,758 square kilometers. The country comprises 14 states and is divided into two regions: Peninsular Malaysia which consists of 11 states--Perlis, Kedah, Penang, Perak, Pahang, Selangor, Kelantan, Trengganu, Negeri Sembilan, Malacca, Federal Territory and Johor - and East Malaysia, situated on the Island of Borneo, which consists of another two states, Sabah and Sarawak. As a tropical country, the average temperature of Malaysia is 26 degrees Celsius throughout the year, but several parts of the country have an average temperature of 18 degree Celsius up to 27 degree Celsius. Currently, Malaysia has a population of over 25 million consisting of three main ethnic groups; the Malays, the Chinese and the Indians (Langkawi Municipal Council, 2005). It also includes the indigenous people of Sabah and Sarawak, Eurasians, Arabs and Europeans. With its multi-racial societies and geographical factors with a long coastal area surrounding the country, Malaysia has a lot to offer in terms of tourist attractions. Figure 1 showed major tourist attraction areas in Peninsular Malaysia.

2. TOURISM DEVELOPMENT IN MALAYSIA

Although leisure and tourism activities in Malaysia began since the colonial era, government involvement in tourism development only started in 1953 when the Cultural Department officially opened and in 1964, the Ministry of Cultural, Sport and Youth was muted (Mohamed, 2001). Since that time, the tourism industry has grown considerably, but the tourism industry only captures one aspect of the economic diversity since economic activities are still based on the traditional sector, such as, rubber and tin (Wells, 1982).

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The momentum for tourism development only began in the 1970s, after the 1972 Conference of the Pacific Areas Travel Association (PATA) in Kuala Lumpur. That conference was significant as it provided information to the government and people in Malaysia about opportunities in the tourism industry. Following that event, the government granted more recognition to the tourism industry by creating the Tourism Development Corporation (TDC) in 1972 and continued with the completion of the National Tourism Master Plan in 1975 (Sirat, 1993).

In the 1980's, the tourism industry received more attention from the government when a separate Ministry of Culture and Tourism was created in 1987. in 1990, the government expanded the ministry into the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Tourism (MOCAT), with an objective (Sharif, 2002: 66):

"... to expand and diversify the tourism base and to reduce country's dependency on a narrow range of activities and markets"

in achieving that objective, MOCAT was responsible for (Sharif, 2002: 66):

* assisting the states to create and promote distinctive identities so as to be more attractive to domestic tourists, and,

* encouraging states to promote their tourist attractions and destinations and assist through joint promotions and the provision of promotional expertise at the state level.

Later, the Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board (MTPB) or 'Tourism Malaysia' was created in 1992 to replace the Tourism Development Corporation (TDC) and was placed under MOCAT's wing, and it is currently under the Ministry of Tourism. MTPB has several roles and responsibilities including implementing tourism policy and promoting tourism overseas and within Malaysia (Sharif, 2002). MTPB is also involved in developing and coordinating tourism facilities and amenities. An MTPB objective is:

"to promote Malaysia as an outstanding tourist destination ..., to increase awareness of Malaysia's unique wonders, attractions and cultures ... to increase the number of foreign tourists ... and extend the average length of their stay and,.increase Malaysia's tourism revenue.to develop domestic tourism and enhance Malaysia's share of the market for meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board, 1975: 4). …