The Malaysian tourism industry has been earmarked to earn the much needed foreign exchange for the country. Although Malaysia achieves about 7 million inboul1d tourist arrivals annually, the growth of its tourism industry has been slow, especially if arrivals from neighbouring Singapore who accounts for more than 60 percent is excluded. The main problem appears to be the failure to adopt a strategic marketing and planning approach in marketing Malaysia as a tourist destination. A strategic tourism marketing planning approach is essential if Malaysia is to capitalize on new opportunities in the world tourism market, and to survive the rapidly increasing competition.
This study found that the approach used by the Malaysian Tourism Promotion Board (MTPB) to market Malaysia has been tactical (emphasizing advertising and selling) rather than strategic for the past ten years (1986-1995). It also found that the country has not formulated a long term national tourism goal and strategy_ Malaysia's tourism product portfolio was also found to be unbalanced without any star; and the only cash cow Singapore was insufficient to grow several promising problem child markets (North East Asian countries) into st(Jrs. Similarly, it has been unable to grow its problem child products such as business travel, and special interests tourism. Further, Malaysia has not been able to build any sustainable competitive advantage (SC4.) despite being in the tourism business for over twenty years.
The report recommends that the 'advertising and selling approach' should be replaced with a strategic approach. It also recommends that Malaysia should adopt a focus differentiation strategy concentrating on narrow markets and product differentiation. It should not go for mass tourism which may be destructive to its tourism industry in the long term. It suggests that the public and private sector tourism organizations should begin formulating a national strategic marketing plan for tourism. The strategic marketing planning model developed by Heath and Wall (1992) is proposed as a framework for preparing the plan.