Sport tourism has become a key driver for Malaysia’s booming RM55 billion tourism industry, which recorded 24.6 million visitors in 2010.
In a bid to help showcase the 120 types of sports that the destination has to offer, Malaysia has set up the Malaysia Sports Tourism Council, a non-profit and non-governmental organisation that focuses on developing and promoting sports tourism.
According to the Malaysia Sports Tourism Council, sport tourism, which currently accounts for RM5 billion per year, is set to become one of the fastest growing segments of the industry, equating to $600 billion a year internationally.
This is made possible by the natural landscape of the country, which boasts more than 200 golf courses and is blessed with the wonders of Mother Nature for diving, mountain climbing, jungle trekking and adventure activities.The word Melayu derives from the Tamil language term Malaiur which can be translated as “land of mountains”.
Some activities travellers can enjoy include diving around the islands with its rich coral beds and aquatic life. The most popular diving spots are those around islands such Pulau Redang, Langkawi (Pulau Payar) and Sipadan. Most of the beach-side resorts at these diving destinations have tapped into this trend, providing diving lessons through PADI-certified divers and scuba gear.
Fishing is another popular choice, as Malaysia’s rivers and seas hold fish such as Marlin, Sailfish, Yellowfin Tuna, Wahoo, Barracuda, Amberjack and Dorado.
Malaysia, renowned for its beautiful landscapes, is fast emerging as South-East Asia’s golfing destination. There are almost 200 golf courses available across the country on different kinds of terrain, ranging from highland retreats to beach-side havens. Most of the courses are designed to international standards and equipped with modern amenities and facilities.
Through the world-renowned Sepang International Circuit in Sepang, Selangor, Malaysia has hosted a variety of racing events. The Formula One series makes Sepang one of its stops every season, bringing visitors from around the world to watch the race and enjoy Malaysia at the same time.
Other events include the Japan GT Championship, complete with grid girls and fancy cars. Local racing events include the Merdeka Millennium Race and the Malaysian Super Series.
Meanwhile travellers can also enjoy a whole host of other games, from badminton, football and hockey to more traditional sports. The latter includes ‘sepak takraw’, where a rattan ball is kicked over a net on a court and played like volleyball. ‘Silat’ is a Malay form of self-defence that has become quite popular in the Netherlands.
As sport tourism is becoming internationally recognised as the travel industry’s fastest growing sector, dedicated events are being set up to help industry insiders gain a greater understanding of the full potential of this market.