Malaysia sees hike in Arab tourists

Malaysia has become a destination of choice for Arabs, with the country attracting a larger number of tourists from the Middle East compared to previous years. (Shutterstock)
Updated 08 May 2019
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Malaysia sees hike in Arab tourists

  • In 2018, nearly 33,000 Arab tourists visited the country, up from 27,000 in 2017
  • The biggest spenders in Malaysia are tourists from Saudi Arabia, followed by the UAE, Oman, Iran and Kuwait

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has become a destination of choice for Arabs, with the country attracting a larger number of tourists from the Middle East compared to previous years, officials told Arab News on Wednesday. 

In 2018, nearly 33,000 Arab tourists visited the country, up from 27,000 in 2017. The number is expected to reach 35,000 this year. 

Malaysia’s Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Mohamaddin Ketapi was quoted as saying on Sunday that the sharp increase in Arab tourists in 2018 was due largely to Mahathir Mohamad’s election as prime minister that year. The 93-year-old premier is held in high regard in the Arab world. 

Many Arabs admire the country for its balance of Islam and modernity, said Dr. Ziad Mohamad, head of public relations at the Palestinian Cultural Organization Malaysia.

Situated in Southeast Asia, the country has tropical weather, diverse cultures and a Muslim-majority population. Most Arab tourists are allowed to enter Malaysia without a visa. 

Its emphasis on promoting halal industries and catering to the needs of Muslim travelers earned it the top spot in the Mastercard-Crescent Rating Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI) 2019 last month. 

“Malaysia is cheap compared to Arab countries, it offers many wonderful qualities such as … friendly people, and many of the locals can speak and understand English,” Ziad told Arab News. 

Lamenting the lack of greenery in much of the Arab world, he added: “Among the places of attraction (in Malaysia) is Cameron Highlands for its beautiful nature. Many Arabs also like to go to Perhentian and Redang islands for their clear water, as many seas in the Arab world are polluted. Besides that, Arab tourists are drawn to cities such as Melaka and Penang for their multiculturalism.” 

Malaysia’s year-round summer weather is an important factor as many visitors come during winter in their country, he said. 

The biggest spenders in Malaysia are tourists from Saudi Arabia, followed by the UAE, Oman, Iran and Kuwait.

“Many Arabs love to spend on shopping (and) they find Malaysia cheap,” said Ziad, adding that they also spend a lot on food, hotels and transportation. 

The government is trying to attract more Arabs to the country as part of the Visit Malaysia 2020 campaign, which aims to attract 30 million tourists by next year. 

Malaysia’s tourism, arts and culture minister said Arab media are “actively promoting” the country “as a tourist destination, and a radio station in Dubai was even airing a tourism package on Malaysia no fewer than 20 times daily.”


Former Pakistani PM Abbasi arrested by anti-graft agency

Updated 18 July 2019
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Former Pakistani PM Abbasi arrested by anti-graft agency

  • Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was arrested in a case over a liquefied natural gas terminal project
  • Arrest adds to a political scene already thick with accusations of corruption and abuse of office
LAHORE, Pakistan: Pakistan’s anti-corruption agency arrested former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Thursday, drawing a furious response from opposition parties, which accused the government of trying to silence its opponents.
The National Accountability Bureau said in a statement Abbasi had been arrested in a case that was opened last year over a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal project.
The arrest, as Abbasi was on his way to a news conference in the eastern city of Lahore, adds to a political scene already thick with accusations of corruption and abuse of office with opposition parties planning a day of protest next week.
“I believe today is yet another black day in Pakistan’s history,” Ahsan Iqbal, a senior parliamentarian from Abbasi’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party, told reporters, accusing Prime Minister Imran Khan of trying to suppress opposition.
“We are not afraid of your fascist acts. Don’t think that you will gag our voices through such arrests,” he said.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the head of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), the other main opposition party, condemned Abbasi’s arrest which he said was part of a government “witchhunt” against elected representatives.
The PML-N was already engaged in a bitter standoff with Khan’s government, which came to power last year accusing Abbasi and his predecessor, Nawaz Sharif, of large-scale corruption and mismanagement of the economy.
Sharif was disqualified by the Supreme Court in 2017 over accusations that eventually led to a seven-year jail sentence for receiving undeclared income. Abbasi took over as premier and served for less than a year before losing an election to Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party in 2018.
The PML-N accuses the government of being behind Sharif’s arrest and last week produced video footage that it said showed the judge who heard the case confessing that he had been blackmailed to ensure a conviction.
The judge denied the accusation but was sacked from his position with the Accountability Court.
The government has rejected opposition accusations of using the National Accountability Bureau, an independent body, to suppress its critics and opponents.
It says corruption by past governments is the main reason for an economic crisis that has forced Pakistan to seek a $6 billion loan package from the International Monetary Fund, its 13th IMF bailout since the 1980s.
Last year, the NAB ordered an inquiry against Abbasi, Sharif and others “for granting a 15-year contract of LNG terminal to a company of their liking in violation of rules and by misuse of their powers, which caused national exchequer a loss of billions of rupees.”