Malaysia remains a tourist attraction

A river cruise in Malaysia's tropical splendour is a major tourist attraction.

Malaysia remains a favoured international tourism destination despite the global travel turmoil in the wake of the terrorist attacks in the US in September, says a top Malaysian tourism official.

The country's culture, arts and tourism ministry's secretary-general, Tengku Alaudin Tengku Abdul Majid, also says the industry remains strong in Malaysia although there had been a slight drop in the number of tourist arrivals.

And this slight downtrend had been interpreted by the Ministry as a temporary situation due to widespread fear following the attacks, Majid said.

He attributed the success of the local tourism industry to Malaysia being perceived as a safe, politically stable and peaceful country with a lot to offer in term of tourist attractions.

"Malaysia is generally seen by the international community as a safe and stable country as indicated by the arrival of 10.2 million tourists who spent almost RM18 billion ($4.7 billion) last year," said Majid.

Meanwhile, another official predicted a tremendous tourism boom from the Middle East in the wake of the US attacks.

"In the wake of the September 11 events, indicators show that a lot of tourists, mainly from the Middle East, are going to come to Malaysia for their holiday in the coming years and many are expected to shift to ideal destinations like Malacca," the chief minister of the Malaysian State of Malacca said in Abu Dhabi.

Datuk Wira Mohammed Ali Rustam said initial statistics and indicators showed that tourists were shifting to Asia, particularly Malaysia, following the September 11 attacks.

He also unveiled a new plan to promote tourism in the Middle East.

He said arrivals from the Middle East stood at 50,000 last year, and an increase of around 30 per cent was expected by end of this year.

More than 27,000 visited Malaysia from Saudi Arabia alone and 7,500 from the UAE from January to August this year, an increase of 500 per cent over last year's figure, he said.

He said Malacca - considered a safe haven - has many attractions from historical places, to state-of-the-art recreational facilities, shopping and sports centres as well as many archaeological and tourist landmarks.