The reopening of Malaysia’s borders in April provides an opportunity for West Asian travellers to visit and explore the Southeast Asian country – renowned as a favourite family and Muslim-friendly destination, a senior official of Tourism Malaysia has said.
“One of the main advantages of Malaysia is that it offers a lot of Muslim-friendly facilities,” International Promotion Division (Asia/Africa) senior director Manoharan Periasamy said. “People from the region feel more at ease when they travel to Malaysia, because halal food and mosques are there.”
Manoharan Periasamy speaking to journalists at a recent roadshow in Doha. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam
“We want to capitalise on that, where people don’t have to feel alienated,” he said. “Halal food is all over Malaysia, you can walk around with the hijab or head covering.”
He spoke to reporters at Tourism Malaysia’s roadshows in Iran, Oman and Qatar, held between May 13-21, designed to attract more visitors from West Asia.
The roadshows brought together Malaysia's tourism fraternity comprised of travel agents, hoteliers, product owners, state tourism bodies and medical tourism industry players, visiting Tehran, Muscat and Doha.
“We do have several activities to suit the Middle East market,” Periasamy said, citing an array of tourism offerings for the family, including adventure seekers.
He said Malaysia has a lot of new attractions such as the Genting Highlands, which underwent a significant transformation, in addition to the famous Sunway Lagoon Theme Park, the Sunway Resort in Kuala Lumpur, and the world's second tallest skyscraper, Merdeka 118, among others.
He added that soft adventure activities such as snorkeling and scuba diving would continue to entice tourists due to Malaysia’s pristine beaches and beautiful coral reefs.
Tourism Malaysia noted that travellers from the West Asian market dominate the top five international tourist spending in Malaysia in terms of per capita expenditure, and usually stay longer compared to tourists from other markets.
Visitors from the region, including nationals from Qatar and Saudi Arabia, have an average per capita expenditure of about $3,000, staying between 10-14 days.
According to Periasamy, young Arab visitors aged 22-25 prefer adventure over the usual city tour, exploring other destinations beyond Kuala Lumpur.
“They like going to Kota Kinabalu, going to the islands, they like snorkeling, some soft adventure kind of activities, so we see this trend,” he said. “They are dispersing themselves, not really concentrating in the city.”
“In the last couple of years, we realised that (all of a sudden) we don’t see Arabs in Kuala Lumpur … they have disappeared, they go to other places, they are changing maybe because of (the coronavirus pandemic), they don’t want to be in a populated area,” Periasamy said. “They want to enjoy the holidays and be part of it, not just sitting there and watching the twin towers.”
“Now, they want to indulge and don’t want to be part of the attraction, but rather, they take a sunset cruise or do cycling and trekking,” he added.
In a press statement, Tourism Malaysia director-general Zainuddin Abdul Wahab said it is a timely occasion to strengthen their partnership with international airlines such as Qatar Airways, Oman Air and Mahan Air, which offer direct flights to Kuala Lumpur, as Malaysia welcomes back more West Asia travellers.
According to Tourism Malaysia, fully vaccinated inbound travellers are no longer required to undergo pre-departure and on-arrival coronavirus (Covid-19) tests, including children aged 12 and below.
This also includes those who tested positive of Covid-19 within 6-60 days before departure to Malaysia.
Travel insurance is also not a prerequisite for foreigners entering the country.