PUTRAJAYA: The tourism sector contributed RM84.1 billion (US$20.7 billion) to Malaysia's economy last year, up by 2.4 per cent compared to the RM82.2 billion 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 from RM3,166 to RM3,257, said the minister.
"The highest per capita expenditure was from West Asia, namely, RM9,947 and the lowest was from ASEAN, namely, RM2,678.7," he told reporters.
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).
TOURISTS SPEND ON SHOPPING, ACCOMMODATION
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.
The average tourist stay rose from 5.7 nights in 2017 to 6.5 nights in 2018.
This increase was recorded from long-haul market tourism, said the minister, namely from West Asia (9.7 nights) Europe (8.6 nights), Central Asia (8.3 nights) as well as medium-haul markets such as South Asia (6.2 nights) and East Asia (6.1 nights).
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.
REGISTRATION FOR HOTEL OPERATORS, AIRBNB
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."
Isham said the move to make the registration of Airbnb entreprenuers compulsory was also in preparation for the 2020 Visit Malaysia year, to reassure to tourists who use the service.