TEMERLOH, MALAYSIA: Forget overseas vacations and opt for local destinations. This is what Malaysians should do in view of rising costs, said Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said.
She said Malaysians made 26 million trips overseas last year and spent billions of ringgit in foreign countries.
"We should support the domestic tourism industry. It will also help us save more," she said after launching the "Zoom! Malaysia" domestic tourism programme for Pahang at the Kuala Gandah elephant sanctuary in Lanchang near here yesterday.
Azalina also urged local tour agents and hotel operators to come up with affordable new packages that all Malaysians could enjoy.
"Not all Malaysians want to stay at five-star hotels. The local tourism industry players must be creative and introduce new, exciting and affordable packages."
She admitted that the fuel hike might affect local tourism but it would not be that significant if those who were involved in the industry played their roles effectively.
As for foreign tourists, Azalina was confident that the government could achieve its target of attracting 22.5 million foreigners this year compared with the 20 million last year.
She said more than five million foreign tourists had already come to Malaysia and spent RM12 billion up to March this year.
On the government's decision not to hold local programmes at hotels, Azalina said hotel operators should draw up a list and show how it would affect their business.
"I was informed that between 50 and 60 per cent of their revenue comes from government programmes.
"We are concerned about their welfare and will help them with whatever we can," she said.
On the elephant sanctuary, Azalina said Perhilitan should privatise the facility in order to improve it further.
However, she said the department should continue monitoring the sanctuary to ensure that it would not be overly commercialised.