PUTRAJAYA: The tourism sector contributed US$20.7 billion to Malaysia’s economy last year, up by 2.4 per cent compared to the previous year, said Malaysia’s Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Mohamaddin Ketapi on Wednesday, Feb 27.
The top 10 sources of tourism to the country last year were Singapore,10.6 million visitors, Indonesia 3.28 million, China 2.9 million, Thailand 1.9 million, Brunei 1.38 million, South Korea 616,783, India 600,311, the Philippines 396,062, Japan 394,540 and Taiwan 383,922.
Although international tourist arrivals fell slightly from 25.9 million in 2017 to 25.8 million in 2018, the per capita expenditure of tourists rose 2.9 per cent.
Mohamaddin said the biggest contributor in tourist 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.
The non-ASEAN market contributed RM35.6 billion, including East Asia (RM18.4 billion), Europe (RM5.5 billion), South Asia (RM3.8 billion), West Asia (RM3.1 billion), the United States (RM1.8 billion) and Australia (RM1.6 billion).
Tourist spending was focused on shopping (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 the tourists other than food,” said Mohamaddin.
Malaysia will aim for 28.1 million tourists this year with tourism income of RM92.2 billion, said Mohamaddin. This is expected to rise to 30 million tourists with an income of RM100 billion with the country’s Visit Malaysia 2020 initiative.
Regarding a move to make it mandatory for hotel operators and online booking platform Airbnb to register with the tourism, arts and culture ministry, the ministry’s secretary-general Isham Ishak said a dialogue session with the operators would be held soon to facilitate registration.
“The government does not plan to make it compulsory for them to obtain a licence, only ask them to register,” he said.
“We have to understand them first and see how this can contribute towards tourists arrival in the future.”