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Travel and tourism in Malaysia - statistics & facts

The tourism sector in Malaysia, as with other countries, had been significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Inbound tourism ground to a halt as countries closed their borders and restricted travel to control the spread of the virus, while the domestic tourism sector plunged due to the Movement Control Orders (MCO). As Malaysia grapples with a devastating third wave of COVID-19 infections, recovery in the tourism sector depends on the speed and success of its vaccination campaign.

An unprecedented year for the tourism industry in Malaysia

Tourism is one of the largest industries in Malaysia, contributing 5.9 percent to its gross domestic product (GDP), and employing close to a quarter of the total workforce in Malaysia. To further capitalize on this sector, it had planned to launch the Visit Malaysia 2020 campaign, aiming to reach 30 million tourist arrivals. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to the cancellation of the program. Tourist arrivals dwindled in 2020 as Malaysia closed its borders to international visitors and restricted entry for non-residents. Tourism-related businesses saw a significant decrease in earnings as tourism receipts all but dried up.

Domestic tourism expenditure was also not able to mitigate the losses in this sector. Malaysia imposed several lockdowns, called Movement Control Orders (MCO), which restricted travel within the country. As of the third quarter of 2021, Malaysia is currently in a state of ‘total lockdown’, with only essential businesses allowed to open. Non-essential inter-state travel, such as for shopping or visiting friends and relatives, remained prohibited, essentially putting a stop to domestic tourism.

Recovering from the impact of COVID-19 on the tourism industry

The Malaysian government has recently announced a ten-year plan to aid the recovery of its tourism sector. The National Tourism Policy 2020-2030 has identified promoting and building up sustainable tourism as one of its main strategies for recovery. It has also highlighted ecotourism, adventure, and sports tourism, as well as island and coastal tourism, among the travel experiences to promote. However, Malaysia would need to bring the spread of COVID-19 within its borders under control before it opens the country up to foreign tourists. While its COVID-19 vaccination campaign seemed to have gained momentum, the recent political upheavals in the country could affect the vaccination program, and in turn, delay the restart of its tourism sector.

Interesting statistics

In the following 6 chapters, you will quickly find the 28 most important statistics relating to "Travel and tourism in Malaysia".

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