KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 11 (Bernama) -- Malaysia's wellness and fitness industry has the potential to become a big revenue earner for the tourism sector, according to Minister of Youth and Sports Khairy Jamaluddin.
He said Malaysia should try to capture a slice of the market by developing wellness tourism alongside medical tourism, which the country has been promoting aggressively.
Medical tourism, which was introduced in Malaysia in 1998, was among the strategies taken by the government to diversify the economy during the Asian economic crisis.
"Health or medical tourism focuses on healthcare like seeking treatment or undergoing surgeries or checkups (at private hospitals). We need to have a broader context by inserting the wellness aspect," he told Bernama.
Khairy said programmes like Malaysia Urban Retreat Festival (Murfest), yoga and spiritual retreats, as well as fitness weeks, could be organised in Malaysia on a regular basis to lure tourists from all over the world who were interested in such activities.
"There's much potential for wellness travel to be turned into a revenue-generating industry. Tourists coming to Malaysia for medical treatment can be given an opportunity to participate in wellness and fitness programmes offered by the industry players here," he said.
Murfest 2015, held in November last year, had attracted some 5,000 local and international participants. Attaining health and well-being through physical, psychological, or spiritual activities has now become an international trend among health-conscious people.
GROWING THE FIT MALAYSIA BRAND
Citing Bali in Indonesia as an example, Khairy said the authorities there organised a yearly international yoga festival to attract visitors who were into fitness and spirituality.
He said Malaysia could also come up with similar offerings as it has the infrastructure, as well as numerous tourist attractions.
Khairy, meanwhile, said his ministry would continue to grow the Fit Malaysia brand, launched in September 2014, by combining sports activities with other elements that enhance mind-body connection, similar to some of the programmes presented during the three-day Murfest.
Fit Malaysia is the brainchild of Khairy, who wants to use the brand to encourage Malaysians to adopt healthy lifestyles and to excel in sports.
"Murfest is a very suitable platform to start with... we work with Murfest as a strategy to broaden Fit Malaysia's concept. At the moment, we are focusing on the physical aspect but we want to incorporate the mental aspect as well.
"We want to see fitness in a wider scope and more comprehensively too. (So it's) not (going to be) all about physical sports, running, cardio, boxing, self-defence or cycling, but also (about) mind-body wellness," he said.
He said for a start, fly yoga or aerial yoga, a new form of exercise that makes use of hammocks, was being considered as one of the activities for this year's Fit Malaysia event.
"I've noticed that Murfest's holistic activities are not only great for the young generation but also people from all walks of life who want to maintain a healthy mind and body," he said.
ON THE RIGHT TRACK
Meanwhile, Malaysia Major Events (MME) General Manager Tony Nagamaiah said to promote wellness tourism, there has to be an active partnership between the tourism authorities and wellness industry players.
MME is a division of Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB), an agency under the Ministry of Tourism and Culture.
"We want to grow this (wellness tourism) business so that it will become a big product, which we can showcase to not only this region, but the whole world.
"To do this and enable wellness tourism to contribute to our economy, there must be a collaboration between the tourism and wellness sectors," said Tony.
He added that Murfest could be a good platform for the international market to get to know Malaysia's wellness and fitness industry.
Tony also said that Malaysia's medical tourism industry was growing fast and the country was one of leading destinations for health tourism in the region.
"We're also committed to promoting wellness travel... we believe that we're already on the right track and will be successful in a couple of years," he said.