Monday, October 28, 2019

Malaysia Sports Tourism

 Mr. Ibrahim B. Mohd Yusof
Under Secretary, Policy and Strategic Planning Division, Malaysian Ministry of
Youth and Sports

Over the past decade, the Malaysian government's interest and investment in
sports has grown after realizing its potential to boost the tourism sector and yield
huge economic returns to the economy. Sports tourism gained official recognition
in Malaysia particularly after the successful hosting of the 1998 Kuala Lumpur
Commonwealth Games and the inaugural Malaysia Formula 1 Petronas Grand
Prix in Sepang which gained Malaysia an outstanding international reputation in
hosting major sports events, despite Malaysia’s average achievements in sports in
compared to other economies. Since then, sports has achieved its proper place in
Malaysia’s sports policy agenda.

Under The Dr. Mahathir Bin Mohamad's administration starting in 1995,
the government embarked upon promoting Malaysia as a venue for high profile
international sporting events. The endeavor started with Le Tour de Langkawi
(LTdL) in 1995, a 2.0 Hors Class bicycle road race which was initially organized
to promote Langkawi Island as a world destination, as well as taking advantage
of the opportunity to showcase other unique destinations across the race routes
in peninsular Malaysia. Following this, Malaysia consecutively won two bids for
hosting two major sports events; namely the Commonwealth Games in 1998 and
the Malaysia Formula 1 Petronas Grand Prix in 1999.

In order to host these events, the Malaysian government has invested a huge
amount of money in building new sports infrastructure, being; the National
Sports Complex in Kuala Lumpur for the Commonwealth Games, and the Sepang
International Circuit adjacent to the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA)
for hosting the Malaysia Formula 1 Petronas Grand Prix. In total, the Malaysian
government spent more than RM 1.1 billion (US 27 million) on the provision of
new roads, railways, land acquisitions, and other facilities, plus the new Kuala
Lumpur International Airport (KLI A) which came to nearly RM 20.5 billion (US
5 billion) to host these two major sports events. Nonetheless, the investment took
Malaysia’s image to a new level globally, especially after flawlessly organizing
both events consecutively in 1998 and 1999. With newly built sports infrastructure,
Malaysia has become the host for many other major sports events, including the
ultimate Malaysian Grand Prix Motorcycle Racing (Sepang Moto GP) which
convened in 1999, as well as many other large, medium and small scale sports
events that continuously put Malaysia as one of the main destinations for sports
events. Eventually, these sports events also boosted other industries, including the
hotel industry, airlines and the tourism sector in Malaysia.

In 2010, the Malaysia Sports Tourism Council concluded that sports tourism
had become a key driver for Malaysia’s booming RM 55 billion (US 13.4 billion)
tourism industry, which recorded 24.6 million visitors. The number of visitors
to Malaysia rose significantly after 1999, which was believed to be due to the
impact of organizing major sports events that brought huge crowds to Malaysia.
The Malaysia Sports Tourism Council emphasized that sports tourism, which
accounts for RM 5 billion (US 1.2 billion) per year, has become one of the fastest
growing segments of the industry, equating to RM 600 billion (US 146 billion)
a year internationally. The Malaysia 2015 National Economic Census on Arts, Entertainment and Recreation also recorded a tripling of gross output in local sports
and recreational activities, accounting for RM 17.2 billion (US 4.2 billion) in 2015,
compared to RM 5.3 billion (US 1.2 billion) in 2010. This was aligned with the
creation of more job opportunities in the sports and recreational sectors whereby
more than 30,000 jobs were offered in those sectors with salaries paid worth more
than RM 446 million (US 108 million) per year in total. This proves that sports and
recreational activities are among the key drivers in stimulating Malaysia.

The hosting of Malaysia Formula 1 Petronas Grand Prix Sepang until 2017
illustrates an important example of positive economic spillover, being the
economy’s hallmark event since 1999, the F1 Grand Prix recorded economic
benefits of more than RM 300 million (US 73 million) per year through extensive
media exposure, besides creating over 4,500 jobs for locals, as well as attracting
more than 40,000 visitors annually for that particular time of the year. Similarly,
Malaysian signature cycling event Le Tour de Langkawi has also contributed
significantly to making Malaysia a world destination through wide media exposure
of Malaysia's unique attractions. In 2018, Le Tour de Langkawi was staged in
nine different Malaysian states and was telecasted worldwide, reaching over 182
million viewers with a media value of over RM 28 million (US 6 million). Since
1995, Le Tour de Langkawi has been one of the best platforms promoting unique
destinations across peninsular Malaysia due to its long distance racing that covers
at least 9 different states within a 10-day event.

Malaysia has never stopped striving to host major sports events. In 2017,
Malaysia once again stepped into the world spotlight, especially among its South
East Asia counterparts, after successfully organizing the South East Asian Games
and Para ASEAN Games (Kuala Lumpur Games 2017), the largest sports event in the South East Asia region. In total, the government has spent over RM 550
million (US 13 million) and has worked hand–in-hand with Malaysian cross-border
companies namely Yayasan Sime Darby, Naza Group, Celcom Axiata Berhad
and Petronas Oil and Gas as the main sponsors to host the most celebrated Kuala
Lumpur Games 2017. In return, these companies were provided with tax exemption
incentives for their contribution towards developing sports in Malaysia.

Since then, the newly equipped world-class venues have managed to host many
world class sports events, such as the 2018 Asian Track Cycling Championship,
2018 World Taekwondo Malaysia Open Championship, Gymnastics Asian
Championship 2018 (Olympic Qualifying round), 2018 Asia Rugby Championship.
In total, 96 international sporting events were organized with a record of more than
86,000 participants in 2018. One-fifth of the amounts which equivalent to over
17,000 were international participants who travels to Malaysia mainly to participate
in one of those events. In fact, sports organizers have been able to enjoy using the
venues at discounted rates as part of the government effort to increase the monthly
utilization rate.

In conclusion, sports tourism in Malaysia started to boom in 1995 with the
regular hosting of major sports events. Following that, Malaysia sports tourism
has evolved over time, with huge government investment in terms of both funds
and effort to host more international sports events in the future. This has farreaching
implications for newly industrialized economies like Malaysia, which is
still grappling with many crucial local agendas. Nonetheless, apart from being one
of the best media to boost the economy's international image, sports tourism has
helped to instill domestic pride and patriotism, which are crucial in the context of
local-building within Malaysia's multi-ethnic society. The Malaysia sports tourism experience in particular, by organizing international sports events despite the
huge financial investment, has clearly enhanced Malaysia's international image,
contributed economic benefits and has strengthened social integration within
Malaysia's diverse ethnicities and culture.

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