Beautiful China and Malaysia MadaniHand in Hand for a New Future of Asian Tourism

2023-04-06 15:03:49       Size:[L  M  S]

Beautiful China and Malaysia Madani

Hand in Hand for a New Future of Asian Tourism

Remarks on the Occasion of the Visit of the Malaysian Delegation Led by Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture The Honourable Dato’ Seri Tiong King Sing

April 3, 2023, Beijing

Dai Bin, President of China Tourism Academy

Your Excellency,

It is an honor to host you and the delegation of the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture of the Federal Government of Malaysia here in this key laboratory of the Chinese Ministry of Culture and Tourism, and the academic center with the richest collection of tourism data and the most cutting-edge tourism theories in China. On behalf of China Tourism Academy (Data Center of the Chinese Ministry of Culture and Tourism), I would like to extend a warm welcome to you and all our Malaysian friends!

As the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy to China, you have made remarkable contributions in promoting mutual political trust, high-level visits, economic and trade exchanges between China and Malaysia, especially in tourism, arts and cultural exchanges. I know that the Malaysian Ministry of Tourism has set a target of receiving five million Chinese tourists in 2023, and I have also noted that you recently instructed the tourism sector to provide Chinese language services at airports and special channels for senior citizens and children to facilitate and give necessary assistance to Chinese tourists entering Malaysia. I believe that under your leadership and with the concerted efforts of all parties, this goal will be achieved at an early date.

Malaysia has rich natural, historical and cultural resources, well-connected transportation network and reception facilities, and well-educated tourism professionals. Chinese youths have learned from their world geography textbooks that the Malaysia comprises of Malaya on the Malay Peninsula and Sabah and Sarawak on Kalimantan, with Kuala Lumpur as its capital city. Malaysia is a multi-ethnic and multicultural country. Nearly seven million Chinese descendants live in harmony with the Malay and other ethnic groups and work together to build this beautiful country. Many Chinese tourists, especially study tour and family travelers, come to Malaysia to explore the knowledge learned in textbooks. From Kuala Lumpur, Genting, Penang, Malacca and Langkawi to Pulan Tioman, Pulau Redang and Pulau Pangkor, Chinese tourists can be found literally in every corner of Malaysia. The Petronas Twin Towers, Pavilion Kuala Lumpur, Wisma Merdeka, The Dutch Huis and Dark Cave are all popular tourist destinations. Bak Kut Teh, Nyonya cuisine, Laksa and Pan Mee are also among the favorite cuisines of Chinese tourists. Tourism is Malaysia’s third largest economic pillar, and second largest source of foreign exchange income. More than 3.52 million people work on tourism-related jobs, accounting for over 23% of the workforce. The rich and diverse natural environment, splendid and colorful history and culture, well-established infrastructures and highly competent human resources provide solid underpinning and systematic guarantee for the high-quality development of Malaysia’s tourism industry.

Malaysia has always been a popular overseas destination for Chinese tourists and a major source of inbound tourists for China. From the “National Day Golden Week” in 1999 to the pre-pandemic days of 2019, the number of Chinese tourists visiting Malaysia on their first stop increased by an average 18.26% per year, while Malaysian tourists to China rose by an average 6.78% per year during the same period. Keeping such a high growth rate for two decades in a row is rarely seen in the world. In 2019, Malaysian tourists made 1,383,500 trips to China, making Malaysia the eighth largest source country for China; during the same period, Chinese tourists made 2,413,200 trips to Malaysia on their first stop, making Malaysia the eighth largest destination country for China. In addition, 710,000 Chinese tourists travelled to Malaysia via other countries and regions. Putting the two numbers together, there were a total of 3.12 million Chinese tourists visiting Malaysia during the year, accounting for 11.95% of Malaysia’s foreign tourist arrivals in the same period. Based on the estimated spending of US$2,000 per tourist, 4,503,500 Chinese inbound and outbound tourists generated US$9 billion of tourism spending, accounting for 18.82% of China-Malaysia services trade in the year. With the orderly recovery of the inbound and outbound tourism market, China-Malaysia tourism exchange and cooperation is bound to usher in more favorable market opportunities.

Figure 1: Mutual tourist visits between China and Malaysia2010-2021

*Data source: China Tourism Academy (Data Center of the Chinese Ministry of Culture and Tourism)

Your Excellency,

The remarkable achievements of China-Malaysia tourism exchanges are attributed to the long-standing political mutual trust and high-level exchanges between the two countries. On May 31, 1974, China and Malaysia formally established diplomatic relations, making Malaysia the first ASEAN country to enter into diplomatic relations with China. In 2013, China and Malaysia established a comprehensive strategic partnership. Last Friday, President Xi Jinping met with Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim. The two leaders reached consensus on building a China-Malaysia community with a shared future, which will surely open a new chapter in the history of relations between the two countries. The initiative of building a community with a shared future for mankind is highly compatible with the Malaysia Madani concept put forward by the Malaysian government. The two sides will strengthen economic and trade cooperation, push forward the construction of the “Twin Parks”, and jointly advance “Belt and Road” cooperation. Throughout the world history of tourism exchanges and cooperation, strategic mutual trust between countries, state visits between heads of state and government, as well as positive coverage by authoritative media have always been the most important factors in shaping the image of tourist destinations and the travel decisions of the people. On this basis, valuing the importance and making good use of the new communication network of industry media, we-media, cultural celebrities and key opinion leaders (KOLs) will further contribute to the building of a beautiful, friendly, inclusive and mutually enabling national tourism image.

The remarkable achievements of China-Malaysia tourism exchanges are attributed to the sound interactions and policy innovation of the tourism departments of the two countries. Malaysia became an outbound tourism destination for Chinese citizens as early as in the 1990s, and it was one of the first countries on the ADS (approved destination status) list. For quite some time, the formulation “Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand + Hong Kong and Macau” has been a synonym of outbound tourism in the context of Chinese language. Over the years, the tourism administrations and professional institutions of our two countries have maintained close communication and carried out a substantial amount of innovative institution to facilitate people-to-people exchanges and cooperation. On March 1, 2016, Malaysia introduced  the e-visa and visa-exemption policy for Chinese citizens. The mutual hosting of the China-Malaysia Culture and Tourism Year in 2020 brought our peoples closer and created more opportunities for exchanges and interactions between our tourism industries. On November 21, 2021, I was invited to attend the 11th Malaysia-China Entrepreneurs Conference and delivered a keynote speech titled “From Beautiful China to Malaysia Truly Asia: China-Malaysia Cultural Exchanges and Tourism Cooperation under the RCEP Framework”. With the adjustment of the pandemic control policy, China resumed its outbound group travel business, and Malaysia was among the first 20 destination countries on China’s outbound tourism opening list. Under your personal commitment, Malaysia has set up a special service agency for Chinese tourists at its international airports and sent Chinese speaking officers to coordinate on site.

The remarkable achievements of China-Malaysia tourism exchanges are attributed to the steady growth in trade, investment and business interactions between the two countries. Business travelers often play a vital role in the development of international tourism destinations, providing fundamental underpinning and setting strategic directions in the process. Twenty years ago, I led a research project of the National Social Science Foundation to study the influencing factors of the number of high-class hotels in major cities. Our research found that four indicators, i.e. total import and export, total retail sales, railroad passenger turnover and inbound tourists, topped the list. This is because compared to the demand for sightseeing, leisure and vacation, the demand for business travel such as conferences, exhibitions, roadshows, technology exchanges, sales and channel management is more rigid. Although the requirement for quality and efficiency is higher, the customers’ ability to pay is also higher. China has been Malaysia’s largest trading partner for 14 straight years. Last year, bilateral trade reached a record high of US$203.6 billion. Trade with China accounts for 17.1% of Malaysia’s total trade. China is Malaysia’s largest source of foreign investment. Also in last year, direct investment from China exceeded US$12.5 billion, accounting for 33.9% of Malaysia’s FDI. Growth in trade and investment increases the number of business travelers. They generate customers for hotels and short-term accommodation, exhibition centers, restaurants and duty free shops, which in turn contributes to tourism prosperity in cities, and brings high-quality tourists to the countryside and resorts.

The remarkable achievements of China-Malaysia tourism exchanges are attributed to the extensive consensus and wholehearted collaboration between the public sector, commercial institutions and all social communities of the two countries. Inbound and outbound tourism involves multiple departments and sectors such as diplomacy, consular, immigration, aviation, ports of entry, transportation, municipalities, finance, public safety, culture and tourism. Visa facilitation, ease of customs clearance, a friendly language environment, accommodation and dining services with cultural respect and care for tourists, as well as well-educated tourism workers and positive attitudes of local residents all make a significant impact on the tourists’ evaluation of a destination. Since 2013, China Tourism Academy has been doing quarterly surveys on tourist satisfaction in 27 overseas destination countries and regions for outbound Chinese tourists. As shown in 28 quarters of survey data during 2013-2019, the satisfaction level of Chinese tourists to Malaysia has been on a steady increase, moving up from “basically satisfied” (75-80 points) to “satisfied” (80-85 points). Among the 27 major outbound countries and destinations for Chinese tourists covered in the surveillance program, Malaysia is in the middle-to-upper position, ranking 13th in 2019 and securing a place in the first echelon. It is encouraging to note that Malaysian tourists to China generally consider Chinese people to be friendly, giving a score of 89.06, which is the highest among all indicators. The statistics and tourists’ personal feelings fully demonstrate that China and Malaysia are each other’s important tourism source markets and international tourism destinations, and the “friendly and close ties between our peoples” have provided a favorable public opinion environment for our tourism cooperation.

Table 1: Satisfaction level of Chinese tourists to Malaysia, 2013-2019

























Further research shows that Chinese tourists have given Malaysia higher ratings than the average scores of overseas destinations in all types of tourism services, especially the attitude of local residents, travel agency services and booking. The scores they give for accommodation, attractions, value for money, recommendation, dining and local transportation services are also quite satisfactory. The following are some of the reviews posted by Chinese tourists after their trip to Malaysia: Penang is a pure and beautiful city, where you can spend days wandering around. No need to rush to the scenic spots. There is an owl museum at the top of Bukit Bendera with all sorts of strange owl creations, very worth seeing; Kuala Lumpur Sentral has a unique architectural style. It’s built like a medieval castle in England; The tour of the North Borneo steam railway is totally value for money. With breakfast and lunch covered, the tour takes you to the farmlands, villages, ocean and forests along the way, and provides a wonderful opportunity to experience the life of the locals up close; Little Nyonya, good environment and great taste, and not expensive at all. The location is easy to find, just in Jonker Walk. Chicken wings, Kuih Bahulu, Chendol, Nasi Kerabu - super tasty. That said, it is also worth noting that tourists’ satisfaction ratings for leisure, shopping, complaint response and destination image are relatively low.

Figure 2: Satisfaction level of Chinese tourists to Malaysia, 2013-2019

*Data source: China Tourism Academy (Data Center of the Chinese Ministry of Culture and Tourism)

Your Excellency,

In the face of changes unseen in a century, China and Malaysia need to engage in more tourism exchanges, and carry out deeper and more diversified tourism cooperation. China and Malaysia are both Asian civilizations. We are both beneficiaries, contributors and defenders of economic globalization and multilateralism. To enhance dialogue between Asian civilizations, greater efforts are needed to promote the Asia Tourism Promotion Program. Reading a thousand books and traveling a thousand miles has been a fine tradition of the Chinese people since ancient times, and going abroad to see a different world is especially aspired by the people. In the foreseeable future, China will not seek trade surplus in tourism services with any country or region at any time. We will make our efforts to encourage people of different countries, civilizations and colors to interact with each other, and complement and share each other’s beauty on this blue planet. We believe it is important for overseas destination countries to treat all international visitors equally and provide them with higher level of safety and quality assurance. We also hope travelers from around the world, including Malaysia, could come to China to explore its beauty and experience a wonderful life in this country.

China and Malaysia need to further deepen cultural exchanges and tourism cooperation, and continue to enhance each other’s position as important tourist sources and destinations. Cultural exchanges should not be limited to traditional programs. They should also provide a taste of modernity, especially the contemporary way of life for young people. These are all elements that should be focused in the new era. Ms. Michelle Yeoh, who just won an Oscar, as well as many singers, artists, scientists and business leaders all have a big influence in both China and Malaysia. They are also important forces in shaping and conveying the tourism image of our countries. At the government level, our two countries should move the focus of tourism cooperation from group tours to individual tours, integrate sightseeing tourism and business travel, and introduce more convenient visa policies and tax refund and duty-free policies for shopping. For example, we could promote mutual recognition of visas under the RCEP framework, and adopt policies to facilitate business travels and leisure vacations. We have noted that the Malaysian Ministry of Home Affairs has provided tourists from some countries with access to the automated customers clearance system. China and Malaysia can also work with ASEAN and other RCEP members to develop “one-trip, multi-destination” tourism itineraries for global tourists, and make “Beautiful China” + “Malaysia, Truly Asia” a classic international tourist route.

China and Malaysia need to further expand sub-national exchanges and city-to-city cooperation to speed up the decision-making process and reduce the travel costs for outbound travelers. As our people gains more experience of outbound travel,  the role of cities as an independent tourist destination is increasingly visible. Just as the Chinese people are familiar with Malaysian cities such as Langkawi, Kuala Lumpur, Malacca, Sabah and Penang, as well as tourist attractions such as Mount Kinabalu, Gunung Mulu National Park, Petronas Twin Towers and Lenggong Valley, the Malaysian people are equally familiar with Chinese cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Xiamen, as well as tourist attractions such as the Forbidden City, Tulou, Yellow Mountain, Terracotta Warriors and the Guangzhou Tower. It’s like they can go to these sites at any time for a visit. To keep up with the trend of shrinking spatial scale of tourist destinations from countries to cities and to attractions, the function and role of cities in the overseas tourism promotion system should be further underscored. Advertising, roadshows and tourism promotions could target audiences at a more grassroots level, such as community residents and consumer terminals. To welcome more international tourists, we also need to increase the number of regular flights and tourist charter services between our cities.

The tourism industries of China and Malaysia need to increase their exchanges and interactions, and the investment institutions, market players and travel agencies also need to have more interactions. My team and I will do our part to encourage the top 20 Chinese tourism groups, especially travel agencies like CTG Travel, Ctrip, Qunar, Spring Tourism and CGZL, to communicate and interact with leading tourism companies and entrepreneurs in Malaysia. We will also promote more exchanges and cooperation between our tourism education institutions, research institutes, media outlets and think tanks, introduce more study tour products to our young people, and provide new types of recreational tourism programs for the elderly.

On behalf of the China Tourism Academy, I would like to sincerely invite Your Excellency to deliver a keynote speech at the China-Malaysia Tourism Entrepreneurs Dialogue during the China Tourism Group Development Forum on December 12 this year. I am also pleased to establish contact with the head of the official research institute and data center designated by Your Excellency, and formally sign a strategic cooperation framework agreement based on friendly consultation to jointly promote the building of national tourism think tank alliance, conduct regular academic discussion, policy research and data exchange, and provide theoretical and data support for the high-quality development of culture-tourism integration in both China and Malaysia.

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