Malaysian travel trends a sign of good economy

Over the years, the preferences of Malaysians travelling abroad have grown tremendously "” from only aiming to visit Langkawi to now hunting the Northern Lights in Ireland.

All of these have become easier, thanks to the advancement of the Internet which comes in various online platforms, mobile applications and flight promotions, making travelling cheaper and less hassle.

Not only that, solo travelling has also increased as the fear to travel abroad has dimmed and travel agents are not quite needed when everyone has smartphones equipped with Internet.

According to a report by Mastercard, an estimated 11.9 million international outbound travel trips from Malaysia were recorded in 2016 and the number is forecast to grow by an average of 3.5 per cent annually to 14.2 million trips by 2021.

Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) President, Datuk Tan Kok Liang, said that not only outbound travelling has grown over the years but domestic tourism has also sprouted steadily over the past few years.

"In 2015, a total of 235.2 million trips were made by Malaysians around the country. This is an increase by eight per cent to 253.9 million trips last year, according to the Domestic Tourism Survey 2016 conducted by the Department of Statistics Malaysia," he told Bernama.

Matta, a travel association which holds the famous annual Matta travel fair, has managed to gather over 120,000 visitors and recorded over RM220 million in sales during its 2017 fair.

"Based on the Matta Fair held in September last year, domestic destinations, including Negri Sembilan, Selangor and Johor, had the highest sales revenue for their tourist attractions.

"For international destinations, the highest sales revenue recorded were Japan, China and UK," he said.

Viewing from the currency exchange perspective, travelling to such places is relatively not cheap, but what makes Malaysians still able travel outbound?

If one could afford an overseas trip, and the numbers continue to grow, it makes us ponder, is our economy really bad?

The ringgit is traded around 3.53 level against the yen, 0.61 level versus the Chinese yuan and 5.41 against the British pound.

Avid travellers have noted that the main reason making travelling much easier is because Malaysians enjoy visa-free travel to 164 countries and territories, which puts Malaysian passport as the 13th strongest in the world, according to Henley Visa Restriction Index.

Besides that, cheap flight promotions all-year long with good inter-connectivity from one place to another, were another reason why travelling abroad has become so common nowadays.

AirAsia Bhd Head of Commercial, Spencer Lee, said the low-cost airline is always committed to enable travelling to be more affordable for people, in line with its tagline "Now Everyone Can Fly".

"Opening and closing of routes are essentially part of a complex network planning which is subjected to market demand. At AirAsia, we enable people to travel affordably to routes which we are committed to build and establish over time," he said.

AirAsia, through its digital platform, AirAsiaGo, has been one of the preferred applications as it offers travellers an extensive selection of hotels, activities and travel services, tailored to the budget given.

"With the consistent development of its website technology over the years, AirAsiaGo platform provides customers with access to the most personalised and efficient booking technology available for 365,000 hotels across Asia.

"As there is a growing trend among Asian travellers who book flights and hotel package together, AirAsiaGo fills this demand with package travel savings of up to 25 per cent," said the platform's general manager, Darren Goh.

Meanwhile, from a traveller's perspective, many hold to the saying 'better to see something once than hear about it a thousand times', even each time they travel it costs thousands.

For Cecilia Jeyanthi Victor, 31, who has travelled to over 10 countries by backpacking, said that journey to unknown places was the best adventure one could experience.

She said although her passion for travelling never stops, keeping aside some portion of money was crucial, in case of emergency and future acquisition of assets including buying a new car and a house.

"I always make it point to save some money in a separate bank account every month, besides owning a personal life insurance policy which has a worldwide coverage to protect myself in case of unprecedented events.

"So to maximise my travel experience, I would try to possibly look for free flights promotion, food and accommodation as a way to save and control my finances through finding the best travel tips including travel blogs and websites such as TripAdvisor," she said.

Among her interesting travel experiences were Srinagar and Kashmir (India), Killing Fields and Tuel Sleng (Phnom Penh, Cambodia), Boracay, (Philippines) and St Kilda (Melbourne, Australia).