Malaysia is expected to earn RM168 billion from the targeted 36 million tourist arrivals by 2020 under the Malaysia Tourism Transformational Plan (MTTP), said Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz.
He said tourism was the second largest foreign exchange earner and seventh largest contributor to the economy, contributing RM47.2 billion to Gross National Income (GNI) in 2012.
Last year, Malaysia had welcomed 25 million foreign tourists, placing it firmly as the 10th most popular tourism destination in the world, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), and ranked 13th in international tourism receipts of RM60.6 billion.
"We are targeting high net-worth tourists and continue to welcome arrivals to our high-end world's best hotels and resorts," Nazri said when addressing guests including Malaysian students currently studying in western American universities and Malaysians residing there.
He said 2012 saw the opening of Gaya Island Resort in Sabah and Grand Hyatt in Kuala Lumpur.
"In the coming years, travellers will be spoilt for choice of luxury hotels as more will be opening their doors including the St Regis in 2014, The Regent in 2015, Four Seasons Place Kuala Lumpur and W Kuala Lumpur in 2016, and the seven-star Harrods Hotel KL in 2018.
Nazri said shopping was second highest next to accommodation in tourist expenditure of RM18.6 billion, an increase of 6.3% from the previous year and 30.7% of Malaysia's total receipts.
He said spa and wellness vacations, golfing holidays, weddings and honeymoon, duty-free shopping sprees and helicopter tours were among events laid out for tourists this year.
December 2011 saw the arrival of Southeast Asia's first Premium Outlet Centre with up to 65% in savings from over 80 designer brand stores, firmly positioning Malaysia as a preferred destination to visit, shop, dine and relax, he said.
Nazri also said that Tourism Malaysia's three annual events – 1Malaysia Grand Prix from March to April, 1Malaysia Mega Sale Carnival from June to September and the 1Malaysia Year-End Sale from November to January had attracted shoppers from home and abroad.
He said Malaysia's duty-free waiver since January 2011 on certain imported goods excluding cars, glassware, cigarettes, alcohol and chocolates which were available nationwide not just in the duty-free zones, had also increased the country's popularity as a shopping destination.
"Apart from being the fourth best shopping city in the world after New York, Tokyo and London, in a CNN global news network survey, Kuala Lumpur has also been ranked the second best shopping destination in Asia-Pacific in a Globe Shopper Index survey.
"Forbes Online has recognised Malaysia as the 10th friendliest country in the world, while Malaysia's Perhentian Kecil Island in Terengganu, Juara Beach in Pahang's Tioman Island and Tanjung Rhu Langkawi in Kedah are on CNN World's 100 Best Beaches list," he noted.
Nazri reminded students of their role as "tourism ambassadors for Malaysia" and to also assist in promoting the country's Malaysia My Second Home Programme (MM2H) at their universities.
He said Malaysia was ranked third in the World's Top Retirement Haven in Internationalliving.com's annual global retirement index 2013.
Next year with the Visit Malaysia Year 2014, Nazri said, the country would be abuzz with over 200 exciting tourism events including colourful parades, carnivals, festivals, Malaysia Mega Sale Carnival and Malaysia International Tourism Night Floral Parade.
He said Malaysia would continue to prosper and generate many benefits for Malaysians from its vibrant tourism industry. – Bernama, October 10, 2013.