Tour operators eye influx of West Asian tourists

by Shakir Husain

DUBAI: Malaysian tour operators and hoteliers should be prepared for an influx of tourists from Arab countries this summer, says Syed Muhadzir Jamallulail, director of Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board (Tourism Malaysia) in Dubai. 

Syed Muhadzir, speaking to Bernama at the conclusion of the three-day Arabian Travel Market (ATM) exhibition, said the response to Tourism Malaysia’s participation has been phenomenal. 

“We are encouraged to believe that we can easily beat our target of 150,000 tourists from Arab countries this year,” Syed Muhadzir said. 

With 70 exhibitors, including 39 hotels, 20 tour operators and several theme park operators from Malaysia, the Malaysian participants were a top draw at the exibition. 

Deputy Tourism Minister Datuk Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who was also here for ATM, said Malaysia was expecting a big growth in tourist arrivals from West Asia this year after a decline last year mainly due to the Iraq war and SARS scare. 

The number of Arab tourists to Malaysia declined to 80,216 in 2003 from the previous year’s record 131,779. 

But with the significant improvement in travel conditions, Malaysia was expecting more this year, Ahmad Zahid said. 

He said Malaysia was also looking forward to attracting at least 14 million tourists in all this year. 

During his two-week tourism promotion trip to this region, Ahmad Zahid is also visiting Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. 

Statistics show that an Arab tourist in Malaysia spends an average of RM3,400 and stays for 13.7 days. 

“Malaysia, as a complete family holiday destination, has more to offer than just beautiful locations, shopping and theme parks. 

“There is an untapped potential in health tourism and education tourism,” Ahmad Zahid said. 

Meanwhile, Genting Resorts hopes to woo 80,000 West Asian travellers to its various facilities this year, its assistant vice-president for sales,Shirly Chen said. 

The “Genting city of entertainment” has just concluded a solo promotional campaign in Kuwait, Oman and Qatar. 

Genting attracted 60,000 West Asian visitors in 2002, but the numbers fell by some 30% last year on account of the general drop in tourist arrivals. 

The peak season for outbound holiday travel in the Gulf Cooperation Council – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates starts in June and continues until mid-September. – Bernama 

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