Malaysia is expected to have received a total of 20 million visitors and $12 billion in tourism revenues by the end of 2007, up from 16.43 million and earnings of $8.72 billion in 2005.
In 2006, Malaysia received a total of 17.5 million international tourists. Inbound tourists from the Middle East last year was around 190,000 visitors – this year close to 300,000 have visited Malaysia from Arab countries.
“The number of visitors from the Gulf has risen phenomenally over the last few years,” said Tuan Razali Tuan Omar, director Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board, Middle East and Iran.
The tourism board attributes the year long “Visit Malaysia 2007” campaign to be instrumental in achieving this growth in popularity, and it hopes to continue this upward trend. Omar pointed out that it actively encourages Arab travellers – at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) there are announcements in Arabic, and visiting Arab families are handled by a special immigration lane at KLIA. There is a drive to employ more Arab speaking staff at airports, travel agencies, restaurants and hotels, and the tourism board also encourages shopping complexes to put up signs in Arabic. There is a street in Kuala Lumpur named ‘Ain Arabia’, and within this area is a showcase of various Arabic and Middle Eastern food and cultures.
An advantage for GCC nationals is that they do not have to get visas before travelling to Malaysia, and are permitted to remain in the country for up to three months. The most important regional market for Malaysia is Saudi Arabia, followed by the UAE.
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