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Malaysia welcomes back Middle Eastern tourists after pandemic lull

Malaysia is welcoming back visitors from the Middle East after two years of pandemic closures, with businesses in the tourism sector expecting to attract especially those who arrive for family holidays.

Malaysia’s tourism ministry has been ramping up its promotional activities in a bid to attract 2 million international visitors this year following the reopening of the country’s borders in April to allow quarantine-free travel.

“We’ve just participated in Arabian Travel Market, and we’ve seen how keen they are to travel,” Mohmed Razip Hajji Hasan, director-general of the Islamic Tourism Center, an entity under the Ministry of Tourism, told Arab News.

“People are looking to experience travel again, and our industry players can take advantage of the reopening of borders to attract this niche market known for their longer stays and higher spending habits.”

The coronavirus pandemic brought the Malaysian tourism industry to a standstill and this year’s target is over 10 times lower than the 26.1 million arrivals it saw in 2019.

Malaysia is popular with visitors from the Middle East and has been ranking as a top destination in the Global Muslim Travel Index since 2015.

To further develop a welcoming environment for Mideast travelers, Hasan said that the ministry is working with airlines, tour operators and hoteliers to offer privacy and safe spaces for families.

Omar Hameed, manager at the Al-Diuf Al-Arabia Tourism and Travel agency, said that he is positive Malaysian tourism will start picking up by next month, the end of the school season in many Middle Eastern countries. Many visitors from the region do not need visas to enter the country.

“It will be peak tourism season for Malaysia by then as most Middle Eastern families will want to have their vacation here,” he told Arab News. “It is not as crowded as in Indonesia.”

But some in the hospitality business say that the country still has issues to address in order to be a comfortable destination.

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