PUTRAJAYA: The tourism industry has recorded a positive 16.9% growth in tourist expenditure for the first quarter of this year.
It registered a total of RM21.4 billion compared with RM18.3 billion for the same period last year.
Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Mohamaddin Ketapi told a press conference today that tourist arrivals increased by 2.7% for the same period to 6,696,230 compared with 6,520,218 last year.
The average length of stay for this year’s first quarter increased by an average of 1.8 nights, from 4.2 nights in 2018 to 6.0 nights.
The short-haul market has maintained its lead as the biggest contributor of international tourist arrivals to Malaysia with a 68.3% share, a 1.9% increase, involving 4,576,636 tourists.
The medium-haul market, driven mainly by China, Korea, Japan, India and Pakistan, recorded a 8.6% increase. The market share was 21.9% or 1,466,993 tourists.
The long-haul market, on the other hand, recorded a 9.7% share, down by 3.6%, with 652,032 tourists for the quarter.
This was because tourists in this market, which includes Europe, Africa and West Asia, would travel in the middle part of the year when they were experiencing summer or towards the end of the year during winter, explained Tourism Malaysia director-general Musa Yusof.
In retrospect, the US market saw an increase in tourists to Malaysia for this first quarter as it was still cold in their countries.
The short-haul market refers to markets less than three hours away by flight, such as Asean countries.
Medium-haul markets refer to destinations that are three to six hours away while long-haul markets are those more than six hours away by flight.
Leading the short-haul market was Singapore, whose citizens spent RM6.2 billion in tourist money, followed by China (RM3.7 billion) for the medium-haul market and the UK (RM483.6 million) for the long-haul market.
Mohamaddin linked these increases to Malaysia’s promotion efforts at travel events such as the World Travel Market in London and the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai.
He said these events gave tourist officials the opportunity to meet industry players and promote Malaysia on the international stage. He also linked this to new flight routes to Malaysia and promotions offered by airlines to travel here.
Asked if he was confident of reaching the 30 million tourists a year goal this year, ahead of Visit Malaysia 2020, Mohamaddin said he was.
He said if the remaining three quarters for the year saw an average of seven million, like the first quarter, it would mean 28 million tourists. He was optimistic another two million could be achieved if tourism efforts were continued.
On whether the public spat between Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad and budget airline AirAsia would deter efforts to bring in tourists, Mohamaddin said it was “an internal matter” between the two companies.
He said it had “nothing to do with us or bringing in foreign tourists”.
On Putrajaya’s plans to ease Indian and Chinese tourist visa entry requirements into Malaysia in conjunction with Visit Malaysia Year 2020, he confirmed the ministry has submitted a proposal on the matter.
Meanwhile, Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry secretary-general Isham Ishak said the forthcoming on-arrival visas for Brunei tourists would boost tourism for Sabah and Sarawak.
He said there were plans to introduce more visa-on-arrival points as well but details would be announced later.