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

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.”


Karzai urges Ghani to drop truce as pre-condition for talks with Taliban

Updated 21 January 2020

Karzai urges Ghani to drop truce as pre-condition for talks with Taliban

  • Ex-president says Taliban offer to reduce violence a ‘major development’

KABUL: Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai has urged President Ashraf Ghani to drop the pre-condition of cease-fire to begin talks with the Taliban amid high hope that the US and Taliban delegates will sign a deal following more than a year of secret discussions.

Speaking in an interview with BBC local service, Karzai said the government “should not block intra-Afghan dialogue under the pretext of cease-fire.” He said the Taliban offer for reduction in violence as the group says is nearing to ink the deal with American diplomats in Qatar, was a “major development.”

He said Ghani needed to accept the Taliban offer.

Ghani says truce is a must ahead of starting any negotiations with the Taliban calling reduction in violence a general term and arguing that such a call by the Taliban political leaders in Qatar only goes to show that they have control over field commanders back in Afghanistan.

The Taliban say the group will announce truce when the intra-Afghan dialogue begins which will happen after Washington sets timetable for withdrawal of the troops.

Washington at least on one occasion called off the talks with the Taliban in Qatar due to Taliban attacks back in Afghanistan as discussions continued in Qatar despite none of the warring sides having committed to halt offensives during the talks.

Ghani’s government has been sidelined from all rounds of talks between the Taliban delegates and US diplomats led by Zalmay Khalilzad in Qatar. There has also been rift between Ghani and Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, who shares power with the president in the National Unity Government, on the pre-condition of cease-fire.

Unlike Ghani, Abdullah is happy with reduction of violence. Talking in a meeting of council of ministers, Abdullah on Monday indirectly said Ghani had taken the peace process in his monopoly.

 “Peace is not one person’s monopoly, one person’s wish — but it is a collective desire, and the people of Afghanistan have the right to take a position regarding the peace process,” said Abdullah.