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Time to get tourists in M'sia to spend more
Publication Date : 29-07-2013
As a tourist destination, Malaysia is doing really well. It has the highest number of tourist arrivals – 25.03 million – in the region in 2012.
That’s the good news. The less sanguine news is that we aren’t so good in getting the tourists to spend their money when they are here. We earned 60.6 billion ringgit (US$18.8 billion) from them, a figure that trails behind Thailand and Singapore which have fewer tourist arrivals.
Singapore, for example, with only 13.2 million tourists in 2011, increased its tourism revenue from $14.1 billion in 2010 to $18 billion in 2011, almost the same amount Malaysia earned last year.
There are good reasons why we get the tourists but not their money. We simply don’t have enough tourism products for them to stay longer and spend.
And if we really want to catch up, what we need are not just cheap trinkets and budget accommodations but high value tourism products that can boost the local economy with jobs and generate greater foreign exchange earnings.
Studies have shown that every tourist dollar spent here has a multiplier effect of 12 times.
That’s why Malaysia's Resorts World Genting’s coup in signing an MoA with 20th Century Fox to build the US film giant’s first ever theme park in the world deserves applause.
Theme parks are big business and great for tourism. The big names in the business are of course Disney and Universal Studios. Obviously, 20th Century Fox, makers of blockbuster movies like Avatar, Ice Age and Alien, is also looking to get into the act.
Twentieth Century Fox consumer products president Jeffrey Godsick was quoted as saying, “This theme park marks the launch of our global location based entertainment strategy.”
The fact it has chosen a Malaysian company as its partner to develop its first park in Malaysia is truly noteworthy.
World class theme parks can do wonders to boost tourism, as proven in Johor. The state Tourism, Domestic Trade and Consumerism Committee chairman Tee Siew Kiong said tourist arrivals to the state touched more than 3.95 million last year with the opening of international theme parks such as Legoland and Hello Kitty Town in Puteri Harbour Indoor Theme Park in Johor.
If Legoland can succeed despite the hot, humid weather, an open air theme park in cool Genting Highlands, just an hour from Kuala Lumpur, should prove to be an even bigger attraction and success.
Our top three foreign visitors are from Singapore, Indonesia and China. Mainland Chinese alone are expected to account for 180 million overseas visits a year from 2015, with most of them likely to come to Asean countries.
So while we eagerly await the new theme park in the highlands, projected to open in 2016, we still have plenty of work to do. For one thing, to squeeze even more money from our visitors we should create quality made-in-Malaysia souvenirs and exclusive products for tourists to buy.
Finally, our "Malaysia, truly Asia" may be the "smartest advertising" slogan, according to New York Times columnist W. Scott Thompson, but we need to counter negative publicity about our filthy streets and toilets, terrible cab drivers and snatch thefts, so that a visit to Malaysia is memorable for all the right reasons: clean, safe, fun and value for money.