Eddie Ervine’s stunning victory in the inaugural Malaysian Grand Prix in 1999 was illustrative of Malaysia’s rise to commercial prosperity. A newly industrialised market has secured Malaysia’s position as South East Asia’s third largest economy; allowing for government subsidies in fuel, food and energy subsequently increasing the average household’s disposable income. More recently however, the Malaysian economy has become more austere, as dialed down subsidies and increasing inflation rates have curbed consumer spending. According to Bloomberg, the marked increase in the price of sugar (14%), gasoline (11%) and electricity (16.9%) could slow private consumption by 0.9%.
However, despite national disasters and economic tribulations, Malaysia continues to be recognized as a culturally vibrant place and is renowned for it’s warm hospitality and multi-cultural harmony. The capital, Kuala Lumpur, is a paragon of this multiculturalism where tourists can get lost in the markets of ‘Little India’, taste an array of world cuisines and dance the night away in one of Kuala Lumpur’s trendy nightclubs. Indeed, Kuala Lumpur is fast becoming a popular destination for tourists in South East Asia, a popularity which is set to increase with the re-invigoration of the Klang river, a new high-speed railway connection with Singapore and a vast increase in both luxury and budget hotels.
We have been talking to the LUXE Guides and we have identified a few key trends that have secured Kuala Lumpur as a hot destination for tourists in South East Asia…
Household debt in Malaysia is rising. Why? Because a ‘must have’ generation are increasingly willing to leverage their income in order to purchase lifestyle-orientated goods. Commerce is booming and more shoppers are buying online than ever before. A Google survey forecasts that 43% of Malaysians who have never purchased online will make their first digital purchase in the next 12 months. However, in-store purchasing, largely driven by tourism, remains a strong driving force behind Malaysia’s economy. In fact, Kuala Lumpur’s 66 shopping malls generated over US$5.6 billion in 2013 – 25% of all tourism earnings in Malaysia in 2013.
When unemployment is down disposable income is up. The Y generation of digitally savvy consumers often begin their shopping journey online, with price checking and peer reviews, and finish in malls like “Star Hill”, aptly named ‘KL’s latest temple of consumerism’.
In order to accommodate the high level of tourism in Kuala Lumpur, there has been an increase of hotels in both the luxury and budget sectors. Two of note are Villa Samadhi, a resort-style tropical oasis in the heart of the city and the freshly renovated Majestic Hotel with its colonial charm.
Troika Sky Dining is arguably Kuala Lumpur’s food and beverage hub. Visitors can find modern European and global cuisine or authentic Malaysian. Shopping and dining are certainly big factors when visiting Kuala Lumpur, but there is also a vibrant nightlife scene.
An overcrowded hospitality industry has lead to the perception that Kuala Lumpur is a value for money destination. Perhaps this is true. But what really makes Kuala Lumpur stand out as a tourist destination is its dynamism in catering for the budget as well as the premium traveller.