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Tourist arrivals to Malaysia to grow despite mishaps

Publication Date : 30-07-2014


While the recent plane tragedies and the ongoing security concerns in Sabah are expected to cast a shadow on Malaysia’s tourism industry, observers say the country will still likely register growth in the number of international tourist arrivals in 2014.

They explained this was because the bulk of international arrivals made up of visitors from Singapore (50 per cent) and Indonesia (10 per cent).

“In terms of the number of international arrivals, we think Malaysia can achieve its target for 2014, as arrivals from nearby countries are expected to remain strong,” one analyst told StarBiz.

“But there will be questions about whether the country could achieve its targeted tourism receipts, as recent developments could have a negative impact on arrivals of big-spender tourists from China and Europe,” he said.

Latest data from Tourism Malaysia show the number of international tourist arrivals to the country between January and April this year has increased 10 per cent to 9.27 million, compared with 8.43 million over the corresponding period in 2013.

During the period in review, tourist arrivals from China only registered a marginal decline of 0.7 per cent to about 652,000, compared with 657,000 previously. Tourists from China on average account for about 7 per cent-8 per cent of international tourist arrivals to Malaysia annually.

Malaysia is eyeing to attract a new record of 28 million international tourist arrivals and 76 billion ringgit (US$23.90 billion) in tourism receipts in this Visit Malaysia Year.

Last year, the country attracted about 26 million visitors and 65 billion ringgit ($20.44 billion) in tourism receipts. “Despite this being a Visit Malaysia Year, the business mood in the tourism industry certainly does not reflect the same exuberance,” an observer said.

“It is still too early to assess the impact of the latest plane tragedy (MH17), but it is undeniable that sentiment has been dented since the early part of this year because of the fallout from the disappearance of flight MH370 in March and repeated kidnapping incidents in Sabah,” she added.

The observer pointed out that the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and Taiwan, had already issued warnings against travel to Sabah islands.

Reflecting the dented sentiment in the Malaysian tourism sector is a recent survey done by the Malaysian Institute of Economic Research (Mier).

According to the think tank, sentiment in the industry had sunk to a “new low” in the second quarter of 2014, with the Tourism Market Index (TMI) dropping 19.1 points to 96.7 from the preceding quarter.

Compared with the corresponding period last year, Mier’s gauge of tourism sentiment in the second quarter this year showed a decline of 15.9 points.

The benchmark 100-point is the demarcation between positive and negative sentiment. Mier executive director Dr Zakariah Abdul Rashid attributed the weak sentiment in tourism industry mainly to security concerns in Sabah islands and the impact from the disappearance of MH370 on tourist arrivals from China.


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