Malaysia keeps record tourism target as it bets on locals, non-Chinese visitors

Tourists wearing masks pass by the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Jan 31, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR (REUTERS) - Malaysia expects to meet its target of a record 30 million tourists this year by redirecting its marketing efforts to local and other markets as arrivals from coronavirus-hit China fall, a tourism official told Reuters on Wednesday (Feb 19).

The epidemic comes at a bad time, as the country is pushing its Visit Malaysia 2020 programme to rev up its stuttering economy, South-east Asia's third-largest. Tourism accounts for 11.8 per cent of Malaysia's gross domestic product, with 28 million arrivals last year, 11 per cent of them from China, according to data.

While numbers on tourist arrivals for January are not yet available, Malaysia has imposed a temporary ban on visitors from Chinese provinces placed on lockdown by the Chinese government, in a bid to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Malaysia has reported 22 confirmed Covid-19 cases so far.

"If we push for more efforts to encourage travel amongst Malaysians within our shores, we have hope to stimulate our economy and hence, counter the losses due to the decline in foreign tourists," said Mr Musa Yusof, director-general of government agency Tourism Malaysia.

He said the agency also had a "quick win" strategy of ramping up promotions in South-east Asia, the Middle East, Central Asia and South Asia.

According to the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta), tourists from fellow South-east Asian countries and India are some of the other big contributors to the visitors tally.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.