Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Fewer Mideast tourists expected

THE government expects fewer Middle Eastern tourists this year, due to the pandemic flu and the late start of school holidays, said Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Ng Yen Yen.

Ng was responding to a question on whether claims that the lack of advertising in the Middle East has hurt Arab tourist arrivals.

"This year, school holiday is starting late. Usually it is in June/July but this year it is starting at the end of July. I am expecting big numbers in August," she told Business Times.

"It is H1N1 more than anything else (that is affecting arrivals)," she said, adding that promotion in the Middle East is very powerful through the word of mouth.

Given the threat to health, she expects fewer Arabs coming to our shores this year. In 2008, we welcomed 264,338 Middle East tourists, who are the highest spenders at RM6,070 per person.

Last week, Business Times highlighted that travel agents were experiencing a decline in business of between 50 per cent and 70 per cent in terms of both number of Arab tourists and value of business.

They said agents in the Middle East informed them that there was a significant drop in advertisement on Malaysia compared to previous years.

At the same time, other countries were advertising aggressively in the Arab world, which further contributed to the lack of visibility on Malaysia.

In 2008, Middle Eastern arrivals declined to 108,665 from 115,994 in the July to September period.

Arrivals from Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates in June 2009 dipped by 46.4 per cent and 36.6 per cent respectively, signalling that visitor numbers could be far worse during the fasting month.

Meanwhile, Ng said the government won't revise tourist arrival numbers just yet, as other markets like China are still strong.

Anticipating a worldwide decline in travel, Tourism Malaysia had projected a decline in arrivals to 20 million this year from a an all-time high of 22 million arrivals.

A day prior to the bombings in Jakarta on July 16, Ng cut the forecast further to 19 million.

Source : BusinessTimes
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