Thursday, July 16, 2009

More Singaporeans visit Malaysia

TOURIST arrivals from Singapore have risen sharply since the open skies agreement went into force on Jan 1, with new direct flights to various parts of Malaysia.

There were about 4.9 million arrivals from the start of the year until the end of May, 1.3 million or 36 per cent more than the arrivals in the same period last year, Malaysia's Tourism Ministry said. Visitors arriving from Singapore account for almost half of total tourist arrivals.

'Singapore has always been our major market, and that is due to the easy accessibility of Malaysia,' Tourism Malaysia chairman Victor Wee told The Straits Times. 'But the recent competitive airfares, which are very hard to resist, are definitely one of the factors encouraging Singaporeans to visit Malaysia.'

Flights between Singapore and Malaysia were previously monopolised by Singapore Airlines and Malaysia Airlines.

There are currently seven airlines with direct flights to seven cities, including Kuching and Kota Kinabalu in east Malaysia. Other cities served by flights from Singapore are Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Ipoh, Langkawi and Kuala Terengganu.

Firefly, which added an Ipoh-Singapore route to its existing KL flight on Sunday, will also start servicing Alor Star in Kedah and Kota Baru in Kelantan from Oct 25. Budget airline AirAsia also said on Monday it would start two new routes, servicing Tawau in Sabah and Miri in Sarawak, starting on Sept 6.

Singaporean Matthew Goh, 35, who travels to Malaysia at least two to three times a year for short weekend getaways, is among those looking forward to a greater choice of destinations. 'I will definitely be going to the more 'out of the way' places since there are now flights to places like Terengganu and Kelantan,' he said.

But analyst Lee Heng Guie of CIMB, Malaysia's second largest financial services provider, believes there is a more complex range of factors behind the increase in visitor arrivals from Singapore than simply cheaper fares and greater choice.

'It could be the global downturn, so people tend to travel within the region instead of long haul,' he said. 'It could also have been triggered by Thailand's political instability when Bangkok closed its airport last year. Now, with the A(H1N1) flu, people likely prefer to travel to less-affected countries.'

State governments are also supporting the services, as more visitors means bigger revenues.

Source : Strait Times
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