Malaysians are going places - literally

PETALING JAYA - The "bug" does not stop here. That's the travel bug, "infecting" Malaysians who are projected to be the second most seasoned travellers in South-East Asia within the next four years.

The projection by the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) showed that Malaysia's outbound tourism remained resilient despite the fluctuating ringgit.

Association president Datuk Tan Kok Liang said Malaysia is also expected to record the highest ratio of outbound travel in relation to the total number of households.

Tan's remarks echoed that of a report published by Mastercard on the future of outbound travel in Asia-Pacific between 2016 and 2021.

According to the report, Malaysians made an estimated 11.9 million international outbound travel trips in 2016 and the number is forecast to grow by an average of 3.5 per cent annually to reach 14.2 million trips by 2021.

Tan said the fluctuating ringgit did not discourage Malaysians from travelling, but rather, led them to change their travel patterns by instead going to destinations nearer to home.

He added that Malaysians were still travelling abroad despite the weak market but they were more cost-conscious.

"A seasoned traveller is defined as someone who travels a lot, and has great confidence in the destination," said Tan.

"With a rise in the number of flights within the region and more competitively-priced fares for journeys to ASEAN countries, Malaysians could be the second most seasoned travellers in the region.

"From nature to beaches, food and culture, ASEAN countries have a lot to offer," he said.

Tan said Malaysian travellers are also likely to repeat their travels within ASEAN countries since these destinations are located so close to home.

Other factors such as Internet connectivity and availability of travel-related mobile apps also help give Malaysians "peace of mind" and confidence to travel abroad independently.

"It would be good to convert some of these travellers to domestic tourists to boost the (national) economy and create more business opportunities.

"We hope that the Government will look into possible incentives for domestic tourists," Tan said.

Young Malaysians are not about to get their wings clipped by the economic gloom.

Startup business owner Lisa Tsijin, 30, said she would travel to destinations of her choice but opted against high-expense travels.

"If I want to go somewhere, I'll still go. But I'd definitely trim the budget for that trip," she said.

Her sentiments were echoed by a 31-year-old teacher who wants to be known only as Sal.

Sal, who worked two part-time jobs to fund her travels while she was still at university, said the fluctuating ringgit would not affect her choice of destination but it would affect other travel-related decisions.

"I travel off-season, stay in cheaper accommodations and get around by walking or using public transportation," she said.

Mohd Zarith Md Hanipah, 31, said being financially prudent allowed him to save enough for travel.

"I set aside up to 30 per cent of my salary a month for travel. I don't go crazy in my spending," he added.