The widening gap between Malaysia’s international tourism brand and domestic multicultural policy

Nathan John Albury, Li Hsien Ooi

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Malaysia’s international image boasts harmonious multiculturalism amongst Malay, Chinese, Indian and Indigenous ethnolinguistic groups, alluring tourists and investors worldwide. Campaigns such as Malaysia, Truly Asia promise a rich and diverse cultural experience, and the government’s international investment arm describes Malaysians as Western-leaning. On the other hand, Malaysian laws, policies and subsequent scholarship show that Malaysian society is hierarchised by ethnicity and language. Through a lens of critical multiculturalism, this paper reflects on a mismatch between Malaysia’s international image and domestic policy. We argue that Malaysia’s international image has likely never been accurate and instead caters towards Western values. Rather than all ethnicities being equal, Malaysia is an ethnocratic state that has codified the supremacy of being Malay. We suggest that the gap between this international image and domestic multicultural experience may only be widening with a resurgence of Islamisation in Malaysian politics and society.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)318-330
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Policy Research in Tourism, Leisure and Events
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2 Sept 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • ethnicities
  • Malaysia
  • Malaysia Truly Asia
  • multiculturalism
  • tourism branding

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management


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