Arab tourists are looking to the Far East, particularly after the events of September 11, says Azizan Noordin, consul, tourism, Malaysian Tourism Promotion Board.
"We are looking for a big growth of tourism from the Middle East. There were 68,000 tourists from the Middle East in July this year. We had a 40 per cent increase last year.
"Before 9/11, Malay-sian tourism was doing very well. After 9/11, our tourism fell by 20 per cent.
"However, it picked up again in November last year. We owe this to learning from the Asian crisis from 1997-1999.
"We launched a strong campaign to promote tourism. The figures started coming back," Noordin said.
He said restrictions in neighbouring Singapore and Thailand had a positive effect on Malaysian tourism.
"For example, Arabs need no visa to enter Malaysia. We focus on family oriented tourism for Arabs.
"Cheap accommodation is available throughout Malaysia. The hotels are also working hard to help Arab tourists.
"Food to suit Arab taste is readily available. We also provide sheesha in some places.
Breakfast is also available up to 11 am.
"Even the shops are co-operating. Many of them are open till late at night to cater to Arabs who prefer late night shopping," he said.
Education tourism is also being promoted for Arabs.
"We can offer courses for students in Malaysia while their families stay here,. They may be for four to six weeks," says Noordin.
"Malaysia also offers some of the best doctors and this is of further interest to the Arab traveller."
Malaysia is also opening up more areas in the east coast to add to the interest of the visitor.
"We are also targeting visitors from India, China and Russia in our tourism drive," says Noordin.
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