PUTRAJAYA: The tourism sector contributes RM84.1 billion to the national economy last year, up by 2.4 per cent compared to RM82.2 billion the previous year, said Tourism, Arts and Culture (MoTAC) Minister Datuk Mohamaddin Ketapi.

He said despite a slight drop in international tourist arrivals, namely, from 25.9 million in 2017 to 25.8 million in 2018, the per capita expenditure of the tourists rose 2.9 per cent from RM3,166 to RM3,257.

“The highest per capita expenditure was from West Asia, with RM9,947 and the lowest was from Asean, with RM2,678,” he told a media conference on the 2018 Malaysia tourism performance here today.

Also present in the media conference was secretary general of MoTAC, Datuk Isham Ishak and Tourism Malaysia director-general Datuk Musa Yusof.

Mohamaddin said the biggest contributor in tourists’ expenditure was the Asean short haul market at RM48.5 billion but there was a drop of 12.8 per cent compared to RM55.6 billion in 2017.

Mohamaddin said the contribution from non-Asean market was RM35.6 billion, including from East Asia (RM18.4 billion), Europe (RM5.5 billion), South Asia (RM3.8 billion), West Asia (RM3.1 billion), United States of Amerika (RM1.8 billion) and Australia (RM1.6 billion).

He said tourists’ spendings were focused on the shopping segment, namely, 33.4 per cent, followed by accommodation (25.7 per cent) and food and drinks (13.4 per cent).

“Malaysian handicrafts are the most popular items bought by tourists other than food,” he said.

On the average stay of foreign tourists in Malaysia, Mohamaddin said it went up by 0.8 night, namely, 6.5 nights in 2018 compared to 5.7 nights in 2017.

According to Mohamaddin, the increase in stay was recorded from the long haul market, namely, West Asia (9.7 nights) Europe (8.6 nights), Central Asia (8.3 nights) and medium haul markets such as South Asia (6.2 nights) and East Asia (6.1 nights).

Mohamaddin said the 10 highest tourism markets to Malaysia in 2018 were Singapora (10.6 million), Indonesia (3.28 million), China (2.9 million), Thailand (1.9 million), Brunei (1.38 million), South Korea (616,783), India (600,311), Philippines (396,062), Japan (394,540) and Taiwan (383,922).

On the 2020 Visit Malaysia Year, he said the promotion aspect was being carried out prolifically through the participation of the country in several major tourism exhibitions including in the United Kingdom, Spain and Germany.

“In the participations, we achieved quite a high response,” he said.

According to Mohamaddin, Malaysia targeted the arrival of 28.1 million tourists this year involving a tourism income of RM92.2 billion and it was expected to rise to 30 million tourists and an income of RM100 billion in conjunction with the 2020 Visit Malaysia Year.

Meanwhile, on the move to make it mandatory for hotel operators and the online rental houses, Airbnb, to register with MoTAC, Isham said a dialogue session with the operators would be held soon to facilitate the registration.

“The government does not plan to make it compulsory for them to obtain a licence, only ask them to register.

“We have to understand them first and see how this can contribute towards tourist arrivals in the future,” he said.

Isham said the move to make the registration of Airbnb entrepreneurs compulsory was also in preparation for the 2020 Visit Malaysia Year to give an assurance to tourists on their welfare when using the service. – BERNAMA

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