Malaysia is still short of its goal of 30 million tourists a year for Visit Malaysia 2020, with visitor arrivals in 2018 at 25.8 million, tourism minister Datuk Mohamaddin Ketapi said on Wednesday (Feb 27), Bernama reported.
According to a report from The Edge, this marks the eighth straight year that the country has failed to hit tourist arrival targets, which for 2018 was 26.4 million visitors.
Malaysia attributed last year’s lower-than-expected numbers to a 15 per cent drop in the number of Singaporean tourists, the Edge cited Tourism Malaysia director-general Datuk Musa Yusof as saying.
Musa added that this could have been due to factors like congestion on the Johor-Singapore Causeway, and Singaporeans’ increasing preference for “new and different” experiences” apart from touring big cities.
Despite the dip in numbers, statistics from Malaysia’s tourism ministry showed that Singapore still accounted for the highest number of visitors to Malaysia in 2018 – 10.62 million tourists, about three times higher than Indonesia’s 3.28 million tourists, which put it in second place.
Rounding out the top five list of countries tourists hailed from were China (2.9 million visitors), Thailand (1.9 million), and Brunei (1.38 million).
Musa added that the country is now looking to court medium and long haul travellers from other countries, as they are likely to spend more and stay longer than Singaporean visitors, whose trips typically last two or three days.
It appears the strategy is working. For 2018, the average stay per visitor rose to 6.5 nights, thanks to tourists from West Asia, which includes the Middle Eastern and Arab countries.
And although visitor numbers in 2018 fell compared to 2017, tourism income rose by 2.4 per cent to hit RM84.1 billion (US$20.7 billion), Bernama cited tourism minister Mohamaddin as saying.
Malaysia’s tourism income target for 2020 is RM300 billion.
According to Bernama, the expenditure per tourist also rose to RM3,257 (US$800) in 2018, with tourists spending the most on shopping for food and handicraft items.