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The are many hidden gems waiting to be discovered by Malaysians. -NSTP/File pic

Ever been to Penang’s Pulau Aman where fresh mantis prawns can be found by the dozens, or the limestone crags and temples in Kelantan’s Kampung Pulai, or Negri Sembilan’s Berembun Forest Reserve that hides the wreckage of a B-24 Liberator bomber, which crashed in 1945 during World War 2?

These are among areas off the beaten track in Malaysia, the hidden gems waiting to be discovered by Malaysians, who, in recent years, have developed a desire to travel around the country.

Domestic tourism has not always been a trend among Malaysians, but it is now showing a positive trajectory.

Travel Malaysia has become the destination of choice for most Malaysians. With the global economic headwinds, it is prudent to woo domestic tourists as the money that is spent feeds back into the country’s economy.

Reportedly, the world’s domestic tourism economy is lucrative, boosted by the growing trend of “staycations”, a term that has come to mean a holiday spent in one’s home country.

A recent report by the World Travel and Tourism Council said domestic tourism accounts for 73 per cent of total travel and tourism spending globally in 2017.

Simply put — in many parts of the world, money spent by “national citizens” is a much more important source of travel and tourism’s gross domestic product than foreign visitors.

In fact, most of the world’s tourism “happens closer to home, in a traveller’s own country”.

Last year, Malaysia’s domestic tourism posted a 10.9 per cent increase with 78.2 million domestic tourists from the 70.5 million the previous year, according to the Department of Statistics’ survey of some 100,000 respondents. The total money spent by domestic tourists was RM60.4 billion.

Clearly, domestic tourism is big business. Besides being a cost-effective travel option for Malaysians, internal travel also has other benefits, such as making us more aware of our history and culture. Much has been done to promote domestic tourism, thanks to Tourism Malaysia, but there is still room for diversification, such as more marketing of popular places like Terengganu’s Pasar Payang and Kelantan’s Siti Khadijah market.

The quality of our homestays, although admirable, could do with more pizzazz — bring out more of the local charm, for instance. Initiating a vibrant domestic tourism sector and encouraging locals’ participation will project the country as a multidimensional tourist destination on the world stage.

Malaysia has so much to offer, so many stories, traditional crafts and mythology which we might not have heard or seen.

Remember “To know Malaysia is to love Malaysia” — popularly sung at the time when the first Visit Malaysia Year was introduced in 1990? Well, Malaysians visiting Malaysia is one way for Malaysians to learn to love and appreciate the country more. What better time than now. Embrace domestic tourism.

Many countries’ tourism sectors are ailing because of insecurity and political issues, but not Malaysia. We are indeed blessed.

Let’s move around this beautiful nation more. See the many zoos, national parks, islands, beaches, lakes, waterfalls, museums, antique markets and other treasures.

Or, take a leaf out of journalist Aziff Azuddin’s travel journal, Why I Travel: The Journal of a ‘Blind’ Hiker, which gives readers a peek into Malaysia’s secrets. Travel and be mesmerised by its wonders.

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