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Tourism Traffic From U.S. To Malaysia Shows A Surprise Rise In January 2009 Print E-mail
Saturday, 21 February 2009 19:01

NEW YORK, Feb 20 (Bernama) — Against the backdrop of the economic downturn in the United States resulting in the majority of Americans tightening their belts and doing away with luxury items, including expensive overseas trips, most industry pundits are surprised that Malaysia has actually been able to post a double-digit rise in tourist traffic from the United States in January 2009.

Although the United States is not among the top 10 tourist-generating markets, its tourist traffic to Malaysia in January rose by 10.7 percent over the year-earlier month.

The U.S. was behind the United Kingdom (10.8 percent) but ahead of Russia (10.1 percent).

According to Tourism Malaysia’s New York office, Malaysia received 19,644 visitors from the United States in January compared to 17,740 to the previous year’s corresponding month.

“The year 2009 began on a positive note for Malaysia’s tourism industry. In January, Malaysia received 1,871,099 tourists from around the world, an overall 5.1 percent increase compared to the same period in the previous year,” New York office Tourism Malaysia director Salahuddin Mohd Ariffin told Bernama.

The top 10 tourist- generating markets for Malaysia in January were Singapore (964,475), Indonesia (186,023), Thailand (116,372), Brunei (102,054), China (including Hong Kong and Macau) (100,563), Australia (47,328), India (41,859), the Philippines (35,955), Japan (32,317) and United Kingdom (31,836).

Asked what could be the reason behind this unexpected rise in traffic from the United States, particularly at a time when consumers are cutting costs on their day-to-day comforts and spending less than ever before, Salahuddin said one possible explanation could be the lead time taken by Americans to visit foreign destinations.

“The double-digit growth can be attributed to the advance bookings made by Americans months before the crisis deepened in the United States.

“Americans prepare themselves well and I can only assume they must have done early bookings when the economy was not as bad as now. Since they had already made the bookings, I believe they simply followed the decision.

Also, because it is winter here, they may want to visit a warmer place.

However, I will not be surprised if things change and the effect of the economic downturn is reflected in declining figures in the coming months. But I hope we can have, at least, single-digit growth. I also hope the stimulus package signed by President (Barack) Obama will revive the economy and, in turn, increase tourism traffic,” Salahuddin said.

But the Tourism Malaysia director in New York also discerned some “interesting developments in the booking patterns of US visitors.

“After speaking to travel agents and other players, we are told that there is a growing propensity to make on-line bookings for Southeast Asia.

This will also benefit Malaysia,” he said.

According to online booking sites such as Orbitz.com, Cheaptickets.com, Flyaway.com, etc., Americans are “on the move” despite the crisis, Salahuddin contended.

There was a rise in the number of tickets booked on these sites although the bookings were not just from within the United States but also from outside the country.

“I believe the propensity to book online will be advantageous for Malaysia because more and more Americans will venture outside as they realise the benefit of competitive fares,” Salahuddin added.

– BERNAMA



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