By Salmy Hashim
LOS ANGELES -- Malaysia aims to reach US$10 billion a year in receipts from the tourism and services industry within 5 years, Tourism Minister Datuk Dr Leo Michael Toyad said Wednesday.
"Tourism is our second biggest earner after manufacturing, garnering close to US$8 billion last year with tourists averaging a five-day stay," he told Bernama.
"Last year we laid out the welcome mat to 15.7 million visitors. We hope to welcome 25 million tourists every year within the next five years."
Malaysia is second to China in Asia as a tourist destination. Last year that country drew about 22 million tourists to its attractions compared with Malaysia's almost 16 million visitors.
Dr Toyad Wednesday ended his North American marketing blitz selling Malaysia in Vancouver, New York and Los Angeles for 10 days from June 14. The delegation included Tourism Malaysia officials, dancers, musicians, fashion designer Nazleen Noor and eight models.
In all the three cities, the Canadian and American audiences and journalists packed hotel ballrooms to feast their eyes on the promotional videos of Malaysia, the leggy models breezing on the runway with their silky, soft batik outfit, and awakened their tastebuds with the curry puffs, satay and spicy peanut sauce.
Dr Toyad said that about 145,000 American tourists visited Malaysia last year, while this year 48,000 of them had already arrived in the first three months of this year.
Americans are attracted to eco-tourism -- exploring the rainforest, watching the Orang Utan in the wilderness, and scuba diving.
While in the New York and LA, the minister met several movie and television executives to put Malaysia on the "film production map."
Mark Burnett, producer of reality-TV series "Survivor". spoke at one of the tourism sessions of his experience shooting the first Survivor show in Pulau Tiga, off Sabah.
Hollywood blockbuster movies, "Anna and the King", as well as "Entrapment", were shot in Malaysia. European movie makers too are finding Malaysia an increasingly attractive location for their movies.
Bringing moviemakers to Malaysia not only put Malaysia in the limelight, but also create a spin-off effect to its local service industries including hotels, restaurants, transportation companies, local production and post-production companies.
While there are no firm figures, vice-president of Multimedia Development Corporation (MDC) Kamil Othman said, "Anna and the King" was estimated to have brought to Malaysia US$52 million in three months and "Entrapment", US$25 million within four to five weeks.
"The market is still untapped," he said.
Courtesy of BERNAMA