The new cabinet of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin in Malaysia was sworn in two days ago. The tourism, arts and culture portfolio has been given to a woman, Nancy Shukri, coming from Sarawak and sensibly younger than her lackluster predecessor. A possible good sign for the tourism industry.
Although tourism in Malaysia is considered as an important economic activity, the selection of a minister is not always well done. After ministers with a strong personality such as Ng Yen Yen from 2009 to 2013 and Nazri Abdul Aziz from 2013 to 2018, the former Mahathir government chose Mohammadin Ketapi, a rather ageing dull personality, who probably will be remembered for his answer to a journalist asking if Malaysia would welcome gay travellers during ITB Berlin 2019. “There are no gays in Malaysia,” he then stated.
End of story and welcome his successor. She is coming from Sarawak, a State on Borneo Island, which is known for its high degree of openess and its multi-cultural background. Nancy Shukri will drive the portfolio of tourism, arts and culture. She previously was a Minister without a portfolio in the Prime Minister’s office until 2018 and before that, was the Minister of Plantation industries and commodities. Her best strength is her multicultural background.
She has Malay and Melanau roots on her father’s side while her mother has Scottish, Iban and Chinese roots. She is married with three children and currently living in Kuching.
In a first statement issued on 10 March, the new minister indicated that she is committed to coming up with effective solutions and long-term measures for the tourism sector. She explained that many industry players, including airlines, were facing trying times from Covid-19 and falling oil prices.
“With the apparent impact of Covid-19 on the world economy, businesses and routines are adversely affected. Coupled with the downward trend of crude oil prices, it is clear that we have to work harder to overcome the challenges ahead. I believe our economy is resilient enough to face these challenges,” she explained.