VIENTIANE: The inclusion of Singaporeans in Malaysia's tourist arrival data is in line with the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) guidelines on tourists.
According to the UNWTO, it is stipulated that any foreigner who enters a country through proper entry points is counted as tourist.
The industry has generally, felt that Singaporeans should not be included in the tourist arrivals data as Singapore did not include Malaysians visiting the republic in their tourist arrivals data.
Tourism Malaysia director-general Datuk Mirza Mohammad Taiyab has defended the country's stand to include Singaporeans in their tourist arrivals data.
What Tourism Malaysia did, did not go against the UNWTO guidelines on tourists which stipulated that any foreigner entering a country, via proper entry points, was a tourist, he said.
Mirza noted that even Thailand counted Malaysians visiting the country as tourists. So did, European countries which counted foreigners from their neighbouring countries as tourists when they visited the countries.
Malaysia recorded 24.7 million tourist arrivals in 2011, with Singaporeans making up the biggest portion of 9.7 million tourists.
"The data is genuine. We did not fabricate or doctor the data as it all conforms with the UNWTO guidelines.
"Malaysia is among the top countries in the region which receives a high number of tourist arrivals," said Mirza, adding that Malaysia was well connected by land with neighbours such as Singapore, Thailand, Brunei and Indonesia.
There have been many feathers on Malaysia's tourism cap.
The UNWTO ranked Malaysia as the ninth Most Visited Country in the World in 2011, and CNN's survey last year, placed Malaysia as the fourth Best Shopping City in the World, after New York, London and Tokyo.
Malaysia is the world's top Muslim-Friendly Holiday Destination, according to a survey by Crescentrating, Singapore-based Muslim travel consultancy released on Jan 16, 2013.
The country is ranked third for 2013 World's Top Retirement Havens by Internationalliving.com and takes seventh spot on the top 10 Meetings Destination in Asia Pacific by ICCA.
It was named the World's Friendliest Country in 2012 by Forbes Online and numbers 12th Most Competitive Economy in the World for Doing Business by the World Bank's Doing Business Report 2013 edition.
It also won the first prize for the UNWTO 2012 Ulysses Award for Innovation in Public Policy and Governance for its Homestay Experience Programme. UNWTO also ranked Malaysia 14th in International Tourism Receipts in 2010 and 2011.
Mirza said Malaysia might not have won so many awards without a proper tourist arrival data.
"We are just a small country but I am proud when I opened the book, we are among the top 10 countries in the world," he said.
Meanwhile, Malaysia Convention and Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB) chief executive officer Zulkefli Sharif said 19 events were secured for the period between 2012 and 2014, with tourist expenditure of RM373 million.
The events include Jennifer Lopez Concert, Kids Golf World Championship, Vijay TV Movie Awards, Tropfest South East Asia, Asia Pacific Cheerleading Championship, World Universities Debating Championship and MuayThai World Championship.
MYCEB was established in 2009 by the tourism ministry as a non-profit organisation to further strengthen Malaysia's business tourism brand and position for international meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions market. - Bernama