A SUDDEN influx of foreigners walking around Kuala Lumpur with maps and the high occupancy rates enjoyed by city hotels mean that tourist season is back.
Statistics posted on the Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board website indicate that close to 16 million tourists visited the country last year.
Immigration Department figures show that more than four million tourists arrived in Malaysia during the first quarter of this year, an increase of nearly 5% from the previous year.
Singaporeans form the bulk of visitors to the country and the month-long school holidays on the island are ensuring brisk business at hotels, especially in the Golden Triangle. Bookings are expected to escalate further soon when the summer holidays begin for Arab nations.
Grand Plaza Parkroyal Kuala Lumpur rooms division manager Henry Low said the hotel’s occupancy rate was 80% to 85%. He said a large church group from Singapore had recently booked 130 rooms.
“We are also finalising preparations in anticipation of tourist arrivals from the Middle East. An Egyptian chef has been engaged to prepare special menus for our Arabian guests while dining hours at the coffeehouse will be extended,” he said.
An interpreter will also be at hand to ensure the needs of guests from the Middle East are attended to.
A tourist from Oman, who was walking out of Sungei Wang Plaza after a day’s shopping with his family, said he enjoyed being in Malaysia and that his children were “having a great time’’.
Tourists Barry and Margaret Deane from County Cork in Ireland decided to stop for a few days in Kuala Lumpur en-route to Australia because a friend told them the pace in Singapore and Bangkok was “too hectic’’.
Margaret, a pharmacist, said she and her husband took advantage of the three-day stopover to visit the King’s Palace, National Mosque, Selangor Pewter and the National Monument.
Barry, who is with the fishery protection services, said he loved the concept of eating out at stalls and discovered several good food spots at the back lanes of Jalan Bukit Bintang.
The couple said they were having such a lovely time in the city that friends whom they called back home were envious. They were also looking forward to their stopover in Penang on their way back home to Ireland.
Pakistanis Sajjad and Farzana Khokhar were spotted checking in at The Federal Kuala Lumpur with sons Mian Mohammad Usama, 11, and Mian Muhammad Awais, nine.
The couple from Lahore decided to return for a holiday in Kuala Lumpur because they spent their honeymoon in Malaysia in 1991 and “thoroughly enjoyed ourselves’’. They were looking forward to a different holiday this time with their young sons.
The Federal Kuala Lumpur sales director Judy Ng said foreign tourists at the hotel comprised 58% Asians, 20% European and 20% from Asia Pacific countries.
“Besides our strategic location in the heart of the Golden Triangle, we are within walking distance of Low Yat Plaza, deemed the biggest attraction in the area for it stocks the latest in high-tech gadgets and communications devices,” said Ng.
She also reasoned that the spectrum of local cuisines readily available in Jalan Bukit Bintang, Jalan Alor and Changkat Bukit Bintang ensured tourists did not have to travel far in search of food, hence hotels were enjoying good business.
The hotel is bracing itself for the arrival of tourists from the Middle East by printing brochures and city maps in Arabic and installing Arabic TV channels. A family package is also available with theme park rides at Berjaya Times Square.
Hotel Capitol front office manager Robin Jaya Kumar said the no-frills hotel in Jalan Bukit Bintang welcomed a good mix of tourists because it was within walking distance of shopping malls, cinemas, cafes and monorail station.
Le Meridien Kuala Lumpur communications and branding director Sairana Mohd Saad said top nationalities staying at the hotel in KL Sentral were British, Indians, Australians, Singaporeans and Japanese.
“We are also making preparations for the arrivals of tourists from the Middle East and have a Middle Eastern restaurant in the hotel called the Al Nafourah where a belly dancer performs nightly,” she added.
Statistics show that an Arab tourist in Malaysia spends an average of RM3,400 and stays for 13.7 days. Most tourists from the Middle East hail from Kuwait, Saudi and the United Arab Emirates.