Photo: Sergio Martínez
Dato’ Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz / Minister of Tourism and Culture of Malaysia
Alberto Rubio. 22/01/2018
Malaysia is gradually entering the tourist circuits of the Asian Southeast, although it has not reached the number of visitors reached by other countries in the area yet. Its Minister of Tourism, Dato’ Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz, is optimistic and he has considered a decided bet on ecotourism.
Malaysia is still an unknown country for European tourists.
It is true. We are next to Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia or the Philippines, which are better known by the world than us. What we did in 1990, 2007 and 2014 is to use the programme ‘Visit Malaysia Year’ to show it as a tourist destination. And, in fact, the number of tourists increased from 5.5 million in 1998 to 26.7 million in 2015.
These are not bad numbers…
And the most important thing is the income it generates. In 2016, we turned over 26,700 million euros, a significant amount of foreign currency. Therefore, in 2020 there will be a new ‘Visit Malaysia Year’.
Are you betting more on quality than on the amount of tourists?
Yes we are. In 2016, we received 26.7 million tourists that spent 26,700 million euros. Oddly enough, in 2017, we received a million visitors less, but the turnover was the same. That emphasizes the quality of the visitors coming.
The UNWTO wants to develop a sustainable tourism. Malaysia?
We are defenders of the World Tourism Organization in the promotion of sustainable development tourism. Therefore, we base our tourist development in ecotourism. Nature, culture, gastronomy, leisure. If you ask me what I want to do to attract tourists, the answer is ecotourism.
It is believed that ecotourists generates lower income, but it does not seem to be true.
Ecotourists are very demanding in relation to the environment and their expenses are high. But they do not want to go to a country that destroys it. If we promote sustainable ecotourism, they will support us.
Is a closer relationship between Spain and Malaysia in tourism possible?
Certainly, these years, the number of travellers has increased from 20,000 to 40,000. This has happened despite of the fact that there are no direct flights.
Will there be direct flights at some point?
In FITUR, I met Iberia’s managers and told them that there are no direct flights from Spain, Portugal, France or Italy, or from Malaysia to Madrid or Barcelona. That is why I believe we must use this opportunity and make a powerful campaign for tourists to visit Malaysia. The only connection would be Iberia.
What is the best time of the year to visit Malaysia?
There is no specific month. We do not have winter or hot summers. Our average temperature throughout the entire year is 32 degrees Celsius. We have a rainy season and a dry season. But even during the rainy season, it only rains for two hours and then it stops.
What would you highlight of your country to convince tourists that such a long trip is worth it?
We are a very hospitable and diverse country as regards our culture, gastronomy and way of living. We have an incredible nature, with the orangutan or pygmy elephants. And finally, enjoy the food, but do not stay in a hotel. Get to the street, there is where the best Malaysian food is.
That is Malaysia: diversity and hospitality with tourists. We also have seas of warm waters, with an average temperature of 28 degrees Celsius.
It is like a Jacuzzi, right?
Yes, but do not be scare. It does not burn, it is very pleasant. If you come, you will agree with me on this.