TOURISM minister Ng Yen Yen is confident that Malaysia will meet its target of 25 million arrivals for the year, even though external factors have affected several major source markets.
Thailand, Malaysia’s third largest source of arrivals last year, is undergoing a transitional period, having just endured a regime change following July’s election; Europe and the US are suffering from one financial hiccup after another; while the disasters that hit Japan in March have drastically reduced outbound numbers from the country.
Competition from Singapore, with its new products such as the Universal Studios theme park and integrated casino resorts, was also expected to have an adverse effect on inbound to Malaysia, said Ng.
In spite of the challenges, a rise in tourist numbers from China, the Middle East, India and Russia is expected to take up the slack, and even boost arrivals by 0.2 per cent over last year’s 24.6 million visitors.
Ng said the tourism ministry would focus on these emerging markets, as their spending capacities were quite high, while existing promotions would remain online.
According to Asian Overland Services Tours & Travel director of sales, Andy Muniandy, the Middle East market had been especially resilient, with a surge in visitors from the region in July causing a room shortage in Kuala Lumpur.
“With Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal playing in Kuala Lumpur over 10 days in July, we could not get enough rooms because their Middle East fans travelled to the city for these games,” he said.
AOS sent the Middle East customers to various island resorts on arrival in Malaysia, before bringing them back to Kuala Lumpur for the football games.
“This was equally difficult as rooms on the islands were also heavily booked,” Muniandy said.