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PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia’s tourism industry has seen a promising start this year with growth in the first quarter, registering an increase of 16.9 per cent for tourist expenditure to reach RM21.4 billion compared with RM18.3 billion last year. Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Mohamaddin Ketapi said per capita expenditure also rose by 13.8 per cent from RM2,813.1 last year to RM3,201.8 this year. He said the highest per capita expenditure came from Saudi Arabia at RM11,069 followed by the United Kingdom (RM5,212), India (RM4,712.6) and the United States (RM4,506.2).

“The highest tourist expenditure recorded based on distance is Singapore at RM6.2 billion for the short-haul market, China at RM3.7 billion for the medium-haul markets and the UK at RM483.6 million for the long-haul market.” Mohamaddin said this at a briefing on the Tourism Performance Report between January and March this year. Present were ministry secretary-general Datuk Isham Ishak and Tourism Malaysia director-general Datuk Musa Yusof.

Tourist arrivals, Mohamaddin said, recorded an increase of 2.7 per cent in the first quarter of this year with 6,696,230 tourists compared with 6,520,218 tourists in the same period last year. Based on monthly arrivals, he said, Malaysia had welcomed 2.195 million tourists in January followed by 2.165 million in February and 2.334 million in March. For the short-haul market, he said, Asean maintained the lead in terms of tourist arrivals and was the biggest contributor of international tourist arrivals to Malaysia with a share of 68.3 per cent, reflecting a 1.9 per cent increase 4.576 million tourists in the first quarter of this year. “The increase was fuelled by positive growth from markets, such as Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam.

“The share for the medium-haul market during the first quarter of this year was 21.9 per cent with 8.6 per cent increase of arrivals to 1.466 million tourists, driven mainly by China, (South) Korea, Japan, India and Pakistan growth.” “The long-haul market recorded a 9.7 per cent share, down by 3.6 per cent with arrivals of 652,032 tourists in the first quarter of this year. “The average length of stay (ALOS) in Malaysia for the first quarter of this year saw an improvement of 1.8 nights from 4.2 nights last year to 6 nights this year.” He said Saudi Arabian tourists recorded an average stay of 10.1 nights, France (8.9), Germany (8.5), and the UK (8.5).

On the drop of tourist arrival from Singapore at 1.5 per cent from 2.667 million in the first quarter of last year to 2.626 million for the same period this year, Isham attributed it to the entry point system issue at the Johor Causeway, which was expected to be resolved by October. “After October, things will improve and will be better by 2020.” On the differences between Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) and AirAsia Group Bhd, Mohamaddin said it would not affect the tourism industry and described it as “internal affairs”. In the Tourism Performance Report between January and March this year, it stated that most tourists engaged in shopping at 87.4 per cent, followed by sightseeing in the cities (87 per cent), visiting island beaches (48.7 per cent), swimming activities (41.7 per cent), visiting museums (29 per cent), visiting historical places (28.3 per cent), snorkelling (27.3 per cent), visiting villages (26.5 per cent), and visiting theme parks ( 22 per cent).

Top shopping items bought by tourists are handicrafts and souvenirs at 82.3 per cent, foodstuff (81.9 per cent), apparels (79.3 per cent), cosmetics (51.9 per cent), household goods (49.8 per cent), shoes (44.2 per cent), fragrances (34.3 per cent and chocolates (31 per cent). It listed Kuala Lumpur, Selangor and Putrajaya as the most popular destinations visited by tourists followed by Johor, Melaka, Sabah, Pahang, Sarawak, Penang and Kedah.