SINGAPORE: Malaysia will remain the key destination for Singaporeans to spend their holidays due to its close geographical proximity and cordial bilateral ties with the country, says Tourism Malaysia director for Singapore, Zalizam Zakaria.
He said strong relations between the neighbours, lifestyle similarities, appetising food, favourable exchange rate, shopping, increasing air travel affordability, especially through low-cost carriers, have made them to visit Malaysia more frequently.
"Malaysia's tourism industry has become the second largest contributor to the country's economy in terms of foreign exchange, thereby making Malaysia a premier destination, especially for holidays and travel incentives.
"In 2010, Malaysia received 24.6 million tourists, who spent RM56.5 billion. Of the total, Singaporeans accounted for RM28.4 billion, with 13 million arrivals," he told.
Zalizam said Malaysia offered a variety of interesting tourism products throughout the year for visitors' enjoyment including new attractions.
He said the Johor Premium Outlet, the first Premium Outlet Centre in South East Asia in Kulaijaya, near Johor Baharu City, opened on Dec 11 last year by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak offers branded names like Armani, Burberry, Coach, Gap and Nike.
The products are sold at 25 per cent to 65 per cent discounts.
Furthermore, it takes only less than 30 minutes from the Second Link to reach the outlet, which has 2,600 parking bays.
Zalizam said another new attraction expected to boost Singaporean tourists to Malaysia will be the Legoland Malaysia, part of the Iskandar Malaysia economic corridor.
Expected to open by end-2012, the 30.4ha project will be full of adventures and family fun.
It is packaged with more than 40 rides, shows and attractions for visitors to enjoy.
The park's centre piece is "MINILAND" where famous Asian towns and landscapes have been recreated from over 25 million LEGO bricks, with detailed illustrations on the towns.
Zalizam said opening of the new Desaru E22 Highway has reduced the journey from Singapore by half, providing easier access for Singaporeans to visit the beach resorts, firefly attraction, Desaru fruit farm and an ostrich farm, to name a few.
Hotels and infrastructure facilities in and around the area have been improved lately to better serve both foreign and domestic guests.
The opening of more theme parks in Malaysia such as "The Lost World of Tambun" in Ipoh and "Bukit Gambang Resort City" in Kuantan, which offer endless fun to visitors, are also significant plus points to Malaysia's booming tourism industry.
Zalizam said the I-City, also known as the "City of Digital Lights" in Selangor has also emerged as the latest attraction in Malaysia.
It is recognised as the "first light scape" tourism destination in Malaysia, with the state-of-the-art LED technology showcase, he said.
He also said an array of exciting events were hosted last year for corporate figures, journalists and the public.
He said Tourism Malaysia co-organised and participated in consumer events like 50Plus Expo, Travel Malaysia Fair and Fascinating Malaysia Travel Fair. Judging from public response and sales generated at the travel fair, the fairs proved very successful.
On the target market, Zalizam said: "Our prime target are foreign tourists, particularly Singaporeans and expatriates, and our main tourism products are homestay, eco-tourism, soft adventure and drive-ups."
He said niche products such as diving and golfing will be given more focus this time.
Zalizam said Singaporeans are repeat visitors and if they are satisfied with the places they went to, they will come back and also spread the "good news" to their friends and relatives.
He said Tourism Malaysia Singapore has always encouraged state governments to bring in more product owners to participate in the consumer fairs such as Fascinating Travel Malaysia Fair (April 27-29 and Nov 2-4) and Travel Malaysia (May 11-13 and Oct 12-14), which are held twice a year.
"We also hope the traffic flow at the customs, immigration and quarantine checkpoints will be smoother during peak period, school holidays, long weekend break and festive seasons so that more Singaporeans will cross over to Malaysia without much hassle," he added. - Bernama