Malaysia, Cuba exploring potential for cooperation in tourism, says Tourism Malaysia veep

Malaysia, Cuba exploring potential for cooperation in tourism, says Tourism Malaysia veep
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22 July 2023
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Malaysia and Cuba are exploring the potential for cooperation in the tourism sector, key to their economic development, said Mohd Akbal Setia, Vice President (Americas) of Tourism Malaysia.

Mohd Akbal during a meeting in Havana with representatives of various travel agencies during his five-day visit to Cuba (17 and 21 July) with the aim of improving bilateral relations focused on tourism said the industry is very important for their respective economies.

He had held a meeting with officials from the Cuban Ministry of Tourism, with whom he agreed that their respective countries have potential to establish profitable cooperation in this field for mutual benefit. Also present at the meeting was Malaysian Charge d’Affairs to Cuba Chenderawasih Abdul Malak.

Mohd Akbal noted that work can be done to promote holiday travel in both directions and explore other opportunities.

During his presentation, Mohd Akbal whose office is based in Los Angeles, United States, outlined the richness and diversity of the tourism products, and that the Malaysian destinations received an average of 26 million visitors per year, before the Covid-19 pandemic broke out at the beginning of 2020.

That flow provided the country with US$22.2 million (RM101 million) in income, according to official statistics.

Due to the pandemic, arrivals plummeted from 26.1 million in 2019 to 4,332,722 in 2020, a figure that bottomed out in 2021 with only 134,728 tourists setting foot on Malaysian soil.

Mohd Akbal explained that his country is engaged in boosting the travel industry in order to return to pre-pandemic flows. This Southeast Asian nation was forced, like many others, to close borders in 2020 and 2021, which was a severe blow to this sector.

Already in 2022 when the doors began to reopen, the number of visitors rose to almost 3 million, a figure that is still insufficient since it represents only 12 per cent of the arrivals in 2019. Authorities of the sector indicated that 2023 began more auspicious and thanks to enormous promotional efforts they are targeting 16 million arrivals.

He said, industry executives estimate that Malaysia will be able to recover the existing tourist flow before the pandemic in another two years time.

As a specialist in the area, Mohd Akbal commented that the main source market in the Americas is the United States, while in Latin America they are Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Colombia and Chile.

“We would like to have at least a very small group from Cuba, and have Malaysian travellers enjoy the destinations on the island, and thus start a new era in our bilateral tourism ties,” he said.

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