Tourism Issues in Malaysia

Since the early 1980s, Malaysia has steadily diversified its economy. Major changes include a departure from a reliance on the cultivation and export of raw materials, in particular natural rubber, to a focus on services, manufacturing and tourism. Tourism, in particular, has had a significant impact and, as a generator of foreign exchange, is second only to the oil industry. Increases in employment, development and foreign exchange earnings, however, can burden a tourism infrastructure that is not fully developed.


  • Ecotourism is a quickly expanding segment of Malaysian tourism. Where parks noted for their biodiversity were once established solely for research and conservation, increased tourism has created a dilemma --- how to balance the revenues from tourism with the importance of research. Activities associated with ecotourism such as resorts, golf courses, marinas and even roads can play a role in the destruction of natural habitat. Furthermore, increased tourism has not inspired more regulation of tourism or education of visitors in how to minimally impact these areas. These omissions increase the chances of more significant damage to ecosystems.


  • In certain cases, over-development is a negative factor as resident business owners seek to capitalize on the economic windfall of tourism through increased construction. The building of large coastal resorts has a twofold impact. First, many of these resorts are constructed without an environmental impact awareness and, as a result, coastal lagoons, beaches and mangrove forests are hurt. Second, over-development in some cases has actually driven tourists away as the structures built are often eyesores.

Dive Industry

  • Coastal Malaysia is a playground for recreational scuba divers. As the country opened its doors to dive operators, it also opened its doors to destruction of marine habitats. Dives with large groups of relatively inexperienced divers, for example, often unwittingly crash into corals that took years to grow as these novices have yet to master techniques for maintaining buoyancy. Contributing to the problem are dive operators who can't possibly manage such large numbers of divers with their limited staff size. The onus here doesn't simply fall upon lack of government regulation. Dive organizations who reward newcomers with certifications for limited experience also must rethink their policies as well as maintain proper student-to-instructor ratios. Until both the government and these operators make significant changes, marine habitats remain at risk of further damage.


  • Taxi drivers in Malaysia are well known for unscrupulously charging visitors high fares. This stems from lack of regulation in face of an increase in tourism. Unchallenged by government, taxi drivers are free to demand whatever fare they feel like charging and often simply shut off their meters. Moreover, tourists arriving at airports, Kuala Lumpur International Airport, for example, will not always have a suitable alternative when they want to go to specific locations.






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