KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia must find new and innovative ways, even unconventional ones, to make the country more attractive for foreign visitors, said Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak yesterday.
He said from January to September, there were 16.3 million foreign tourists which was a 4.4% increase over the same period last year.
He pointed out that for the past decade or so, the tourism industry had become the second highest income-earner for the national economy, after manufacturing.
While tourists spend the most on accommodation, he said shopping is the second main revenue earner.
He said that last year, the government spent RM10mil in promotions and advertising as well as organising events and activities specifically to promote shopping.
“The return was a whopping RM12.2bil in tourist shopping receipts, which is roughly an impressive 120-fold return. Without a doubt, this underscores the importance of shopping as a key revenue generator for the country,”Â he said at the soft launch of the The Malaysia Savings Sale 2008 at The Gardens Mid Valley.
Najib cautioned business operators not to shortchange customers as maintaining a reputation was important.
“You should make Malaysia a destination that provides quality products at reasonable prices,”Â he said.
Najib also said that there was a need to attract more high-end tourists and Malaysia should study how to position itself as one of the preferred and popular destinations of the rich and famous, such as Sardinia in Italy and Honolulu in Hawaii.
Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said said in the first quarter of the 2008 Retail Performance, Malaysia recorded a strong growth rate of 12.1% in sales compared to 8.7% during the same period last year.
Master Card cardholders, she said, spent nearly RM4.13bil during the first 59 days of the Malaysia Mega Sale Carnival (July 5 to Sept 1).
Later at a press conference, Najib, who is also Finance Minister, was asked about the increasing usage of credit cards by Malaysians.
He said it was not a big figure and it was nothing to worry about.
“As long as it’s within their means to pay back and they don’t become bad debts. We are monitoring the situation,”Â he said.
Source : The Star