Senior Malaysia tourism officials are now in India to woo more tourists from the burgeoning affluent middle class population.
It will, nevertheless, be a tough task as regional players are vying for the same pie to rake in foreign exchange for their cash-hungry economies.
A high-level delegation, led by Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Ng Yen Yen, is convincing dozens of Indian travel agents that Malaysia is a competitive tropical holiday destination in Southeast Asia, unparallel to any of its neighbours.
More Indians, made rich by the decades-long economic success are travelling abroad for leisure, something that was only exclusive to the nova rich in the past.
Annually, eight to 10 million Indians travel, a dismal figure if compared with the country's billion over population.
The number is growing annually, especially with nearly 20 million people adding yearly to the already existing 300-million strong middle-class society.
"India is an exciting market for us. We only had 29,000 tourists from India in 1999 but the figure shot up to 500,000 last year.
"We want a million Indian tourists to visit Malaysia in the next two to three years, " Dr Ng said.
Cash-rich Indians are also big spenders, having splurged a whopping RM1.5 billion last year in Malaysia.
Malaysia raked in over RM40 billion in tourist dollar from nearly 22 million visitors, placing the tourism sector as the second largest foreign exchange earner, after manufacturing.
Over the last decade, persistent marketing strategies backed by tourist-friendly policies had helped Malaysia unlock the tough Indian market.
India is a favourite hunting ground for tourist-dependent countries like Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand, especially when the sluggish global economy clipped their foreign earnings.
"India is the fifth largest market for Malaysia. We need to re-look at this market (India) and at our advertising strategies because each city in India is different and unique.
"Malaysia Airlines and Tourism Malaysia need to collaborate to promote Malaysia among Indians. We cannot rest on our laurels," she added.
Dr Ng and her delegation are currently on a road show to Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Chennai to sell Malaysia as an attractive tropical holiday haven in the region.
She said Malaysia was ready to offer tourists from India customised wedding packages, special holiday bonanza for women, diving and golfing activities to mega sales for shopperholics.
But Indian travel entrepreneurs are demanding more from the Malaysian delegation.
They want visa on arrival, which the Malaysian government cancelled last year due to overstaying problems, and increased flight frequency.
In her sessions with the media, she tried to cajole the hard-hitting Indian journalists to sell the famous tag line " Malaysia Truly Asia " which placed Malaysia on the international tourist map.
"We are cost competitive, tourists are safe in Malaysia, India and Malaysia have many commonalities.
"Come to Malaysia and see what we have", she told Indian reporters.
But it will be a tough challenge for the new minister, with emerging regional players like Indo-China also clambering for a slice of the Indian outbound tourist market.
With the Influenza A (H1N1) pandemic on the rise, tourist arrivals in Malaysia could be in the cold.
Source : Bernama
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