‘We are expecting a major increase in tourist figures this year’

Malaysia’s Deputy Tourism Minister Dato’ Ahmed Zahid Hamidi talk about the growing popularity of his country

What has tourism figures been like last year?
In 2004, we saw an average of about 15.7 million tourists generating more than $7.8 billion.

The Middle East sector has alone brought more than 1,26,000 tourists.

What attracts the Arab travellers to Malaysia?
Malaysia has always welcomed Arab merchants who have been coming to our country for trade and have left behind a strong cultural influence. We are expecting a major increase in tourist figures this year from the Middle East following our campaign portraying the country as an ideal destination for family holidays and a reasonably priced alternative to Western destinations. Many Arab travellers feel at home in Malaysia’s tropical climate. The Muslim culture and common family values are other factors that attract Arab tourists.
“Feel at home”, is the new campaign for Middle East travellers. To target them, more and more resorts and hotels are being spruced around the city which boasts of Arabian architecture and design. Arab visitors no longer need visas to enter Malaysia if the visit is for less than three months and the Gulf’s expatriate residents get a visa upon arrival.

Is Malaysia being promoted as a MICE destination?
With the two new ultramodern international convention centres, the Putrajaya Convention Centre and the Kuala Lumpur City Centre, MICE sector is definitely on the rise. Kuala Lumpur also has the Putra World Trade Centre  and the Malaysia International Exhibition and Convention Centre.