The COVID-19 pandemic has not only hit the health sector but also has led to a downward economic spiral. Tourism is one of the hardest hit sectors during the crisis due to the imposition of a global scale lockdown. One of the major economic challenges in a post pandemic world will be to revive the tourism sector, with a focus on building an inclusive and sustainable tourism sector that is prepared as well as resilient against future disasters.
On December 23, 2020, Malaysian Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin launched the National Tourism Policy 2020–2030 (DPN2020-2030), Malaysia’s dynamic and strategic plan to revive the tourism industry in the country. “The policy will be implemented through six core strategies namely governance transformation, establishing inclusive tourism investment zones, intensifying tourism digitalization, enriching the experience and satisfaction among tourists, strengthening commitment towards building sustainable tourism as well as increasing human resources capacity within all tourism sub-sectors,” said Muhyiddin.
Citing the projection made by world tourism organisation and local economic body, Muhyiddin said the government was aware of the challenges ahead that the country has to navigate in order to revive its tourism sector. “United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) in its forecast said it will take between two and four years for the global tourism industry to recover. The government was also informed by the National Economic Action Council (MTEN) that it will take at least four years for us to revive the industry. “Four years is a long period which will certainly unfold major challenges to those directly and indirectly involved in the country’s tourism sector. “Apart from the on-going efforts to end the pandemic, there are opportunities available for us to improve the quality of our delivery service.
This can be achieved through optimizing the use of technology such as video conferencing and non-physical contact (cashless) transaction as well as embracing the new normal without affecting the potential of tourism industry,” he said.
The six core strategies of DNP2020-2030 may now be examined in detail as stated in the policy document. Governance Transformation entails strengthening the governance and coordination of 40 agencies directly or indirectly involved with tourism. This strategy calls for creating a National Tourism Council, establish a tourism academy for government officials involved in tourism and embrace innovative governance models to facilitate participatory process and public-private sector partnership. The second transformation strategy of creating special tourism investment zones calls for two strategic actions – spearheading tourism innovation through PPP and creating a pro investment environment through targeted businesses.
The third strategy calls embracing smart tourism. To achieve this, the DNP2020-2030 proposes four strategic actions – optimising e-markets through smart partnership between the government and the tourism industry, embracing but regulating the sharing economy to encourage innovation, advancing the use of big data analytics in planning and development and consolidating the visitor economy to optimise the tourism value chain.
The fourth strategy of the DNP calls for enhancing demand sophistication by increasing the depth of the tourism experience. This entails undertaken rigorous tourisms analytics, catering to customised travelling demands, branding Malaysia as a premier ecotourism destination, and removing impediments that restricts high value tourism. The fifth strategy calls for practising sustainable and responsible tourism and aligning the tourism policy towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDG). Four strategic actions are identified for achieving this objective – championing responsible tourism especially at environmentally fragile areas, managing the development of tourism islands in synergy with conservation, practising inclusive tourism to include women, youth and disadvantaged groups and monitoring the tourism industry’s contribution to the UNSDGs.
Transformation strategy six calls for building human capital and create a service culture personifying the hospitality and professionalism of the tourism industry. This will be done through enhancing cooperation between public sector, private sector and academician for streamlining human capital development, expanding use of digital technology in tourism and hospitality programmes, developing new skill sets for attracting youths as tourist professionals and conducting specialised training programs. Muhyiddin urged all parties to work closely with the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry to ensure that the objectives outlined under the DPN2020-2030 could be achieved. “It is our shared responsibility to ensure the tourism product developments remain sustainable, competitive and inclusive as indicated under the DPN2020-2030.” he remarked.
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