Tourism spending in Malaysia has picked up following the slowdown in 2014 in the wake of the Malaysia Airlines twin disasters. Despite a dip in the number of arrivals, tourists spent a record RM4.9 billion on shopping in the first quarter of 2015, up 10.8 per cent from the same period last year. “That represents 28.1 percent of total tourist expenditure. The next largest component was accommodation which accounted for 26.3 percent,” new Tourism Malaysia chairman Wee Choo Keong said at buka puasa event. He said Malaysia was a significant player in tourism being the world’s 11th most visited country in 2013. However it slipped to 12th place last year. “We have to pull ourselves up and get over these setbacks. Malaysia has so much potential as a tourist destination. It’s not just about shopping and accommodation,” Wee said.
“Malaysia has first-class geography. Others have beaches, so do we. Same goes for our mountains and forest reserves. It’s all there and only need to be properly utilised.” Saudi Arabians were the biggest spender per capita among tourists, recording an average of RM9,637 during their stay. This was followed by New Zealanders (RM4,213) and Australians (RM4,133). “The average length of stay has also gone up from five nights to 6.7 nights this year,” he said.
Wee attributed the better performance to a favourable exchange rate and hoteliers offering better rates because of increased competition. He said Tourism Malaysia was looking for ways to increase arrivals by improving the key components of the tourist industry.
“I’m talking about taxis and tour guides, among other things. People in these professions are informal ambassadors of the country and should be properly trained and equipped for that role,” he said. “We can have the best attractions. If those taking them there give the tourists a rough time or if those tasked with guiding them don’t do a good job, we are going to lose out.”