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Why some prefer to holiday overseas instead of staying local

Other countries in the region provide alternative options even as Malaysia continues its efforts to restart domestic tourism.

Ahmad Mustakim Zulkifli
3 minute read
In this photo taken on Jan 16, people queue up for grilled seafood sticks in the Chinatown area of Bangkok. Photo: AFP
In this photo taken on Jan 16, people queue up for grilled seafood sticks in the Chinatown area of Bangkok. Photo: AFP

Fadzil Faez and his family spent the long weekend in conjunction with Malaysia Day enjoying a much anticipated break from the hustle and bustle of work – but, despite the national nature of the holiday, nowhere within the country itself. 

Instead, he and his wife took their two young children across the border to Hatyai in Thailand where they spent three days shopping and sampling the food. 

It was the first time they had left the country since the reopening of the borders, and Fadzil said they enjoyed themselves tremendously. 

"The buffet is cheaper there," he said, recalling the vacation. 

"A steamboat buffet is only 300 baht per head while children below 90cm in height can eat for free." 

And at tourist hotspots in the country, he said, they were even allowed to enter free of charge. 

Speaking to MalaysiaNow, Fadzil said he had decided to go to Thailand as he did not want to get stuck in Malaysia's infamous traffic. 

He added that getting to popular tourist spots in the country was not as easy as it used to be. 

"In Langkawi, for instance, there are fewer ferry trips now," he said. 

"Sometimes we buy tickets there but we can't get any to come back."

The prices at local tourist destinations were also enough to make him think twice. 

"A trip on the Langkawi cable car costs RM50," he said. "And if you want to go on the Skybridge, you have to pay an additional fee." 

For Fadzil, the trip to Thailand was still worth it even though the ringgit exchange rate was not as strong as it used to be. 

He said it was also easy to avoid the crowds at the border by entering at a point other than Bukit Kayu Hitam. 

The trend of travelling to Thailand recently made waves with some expressing annoyance about the ringgit value which they said had been affected by such decisions. 

Norain Othman from Universiti Teknologi Mara's hotel and tourism management faculty said Thailand was more diverse in terms of tourist attractions. 

"And in terms of hospitality services, they are more customer friendly, from the taxi drivers to the vendors, right down to the hotel workers," she said. 

In any case, she added, Thai food had always been a hit with Malaysians. 

"Prices there are cheap, and the food is very fresh, especially the seafood," she said. 

Further south, Indonesia has also been working to advertise its secondary provinces and develop unique local attractions that reflect its identity as a country, putting out tourism campaigns for seasons and festivals. 

From the domestic tourism point of view, Norain said, even Thai travellers were once mostly unaware of efforts to promote high-end tourism in their country. 

She said it took campaigns such as the "Thais travel in Thailand" push to increase their awareness and perception of domestic vacations. 

"The Thai government also recently implemented tax incentives to boost domestic tourism, and this has shown positive results," she said. 

Referring to the local tourism sector, Norain said there appeared to be a lack of high-end theme park operators as well as facilities that cater to those with special needs. 

"Tourists are also averse to unfriendly vendors and they don't like the lack of high-end products," she said. 

The local tourism industry has also been struggling with issues such as expensive transportation fees and room prices, in addition to poor customer service and high service tax. 

Norain said the attitude of travellers also differed according to generation. 

She said the baby boomers preferred popular spots and sites of religious importance, as well as agro-tourism products.

Travellers from the so-called Generation X meanwhile appeared to have stronger local tastes and the desire to experience nature and the culture within their own country. 

"They will choose places that are worth the price, and locations with good food and beverages," she said. 

"Gen Y is more focused on escapism, cultural diversity and historical places," she said. 

"They will visit national parks and wildlife refuges, and shop for branded products."

As for Gen Z, she said, their attitude to travel tends towards social status, new experiences and shopping. 

"They focus on challenging places, health treatment and sports activities," she said.