Malaysia Registers Highest Climb in Tourist Arrivals

Known for its sandy beaches, world class golf courses, mega shopping malls, thriving street markets, colonial hill stations, and yummy cuisine, multicultural Malaysia registered the highest increase in international visitors in September, according to figures released Wednesday by the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA). The strong 25% growth in arrivals reflects the country’s growing popularity as a tourist destination.

Thailand has had a surge in tourism arrivals, helping to boost the overall growth rate in Southeast Asia, whose overall arrivals were up 14%. Arrivals in Australia and New Zealand were both up 9 percent. Hawaii was up 8%. Overall figures for the 41 countries constituting the Asian Pacific, however, were not so sanguine, with a mere 0.7% year-on-year iincrease n September. Growth for the first nine months of 2009 dropped by 5%.

International visitor arrivals to Northeast Asia were down by 2% in September, together with the Americas, which were down 3%, and South Asia, down 1%, offsetting the positive growth seen in Southeast Asia and the Pacific. Foreign inbound numbers for China were down 4 percent; for Japan, they were down 16%, depressing growth in Northeast Asia, in spite of positive results from Hong Kong, which was up 3%, Macau, up 4 %, Taiwan, up 11%, and South Korea, up16%.

The 1% decline in arrivals to South Asia was largely driven by the 4% fall in international arrivals into India. Tourism demand in Sri Lanka, on the other hand, continued to improve, recording a 29% for the month.

According to Kris Lim, associate director of PATA’s Strategic Intelligence Centre (SIC), 2009 is proving to be one of the worst in many years for many Asia Pacific destinations. “The full-year contraction in arrival numbers could be as much as 5%,” she said. “This means the region could end the year with some 17 million fewer visitors this year as compared to the 377 million recorded in 2008.”

According to the International Monetary Fund, the global economy is expects to expand by 3% next year – but faster growth is expected for the Asia Pacific region at about double the global growth rate. “We have lost two years of growth,” Lim says. “The prospects for 2010 appear promising but it needs to be stressed that there is no quick fix for the travel and tourism industry. All stakeholders must continue to work together to lead the industry out of the crisis.”

Pictured: Perhentian Island, Malaysia
Picture Credit: Tourism Malaysia

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