Pahang targets 24% increase in foreign tourist arrivals

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KUALA LUMPUR: Pahang is targeting 3.2 million foreign tourist arrivals this year, in line with the country’s projected record international visitors of 28 million in conjunction with Visit Malaysia Year 2014.

The target is a 24% increase over 2013’s figure of 2.58 million. It represents 26.7% of the state’s total tourist traffic (both domestic and international) of 12 million forecast for the year.

The state has seen foreign tourist arrivals increasing gradually, with 2011 and 2012 recording 2.39 million and 2.91 million respectively. Tourists are distinguished from excursionist as the former stay for at least one night, while the latter are day trippers.

Last year, Pahang welcomed a total of 10.64 million tourists, surpassing its initial target of 10 million. Department of Statistics Malaysia in its domestic tourism survey for 2012 highlighted that the top five most visited places by Malaysians in Pahang were Cameron Highlands, Genting Highlands, Pantai Teluk Cempedak, Gambang Water Park and Pantai Cherating.

While the breakdown in foreign tourist arrivals for 2013 has yet to be tabulated, Tourism Malaysia Pahang director Mohd Faharuddin Hatmin said that based on 2012’s figure, Kuantan (including Cherating) and Genting Highlands were the two most visited tourist attractions in the state, welcoming 1.2 million foreign visitors each. Tourism Malaysia is the marketing arm of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

“The rest [foreign visitors] visited places like Cameron Highlands, Tioman Island and Taman Negara,” he told The Edge Financial Daily in a telephone interview.

In terms of country of origin based on 2012’s tourist arrival data, Mohd Faharuddin said Singaporeans ranked No 1 with 1.2 million visitors, followed by China (250,000) and India (100,000).

“This was followed by 80,000 tourists from Japan, while others were from countries like the UK, Germany and Holland,” he said.

He pointed out that one of the state’s goals for 2014 is to increase the average length of stay. In 2012, the average length of stay was 2.4 nights. “Tourism Malaysia is targeting three nights. This is an ambitious goal, but we have to aim high,” Mohd Faharuddin said. Logically, the longer the tourists stay the more they will spend.

Pahang is also seeing a steady increase in terms of charter flights from Taiwan, which specifically caters for Club Med Cherating holiday packages. A total of 28 China Airlines charter flights landed at the Sultan Ahmad Shah Airport in Kuantan in 2013, bringing in 4,400 tourists from Taiwan. This compares with a total of 4,200 Taiwanese tourists who made their way to our shores via Kuantan in 2012. Incidentally, the average stay at Club Med is four nights.

According to Mohd Faharuddin, the charter flights started seven years ago. “This year, we are expecting a total of 30 charter flights.”

The state also has one scheduled flight to an international destination. FireFly offers daily flights between Kuantan and Singapore.

Meanwhile, Pahang’s success in attracting a rising number of foreign tourists via Sultan Ahmad Shah Airport in Kuantan hasn’t gone unnoticed.

The Ministry of Finance late last year in its tender document calling for companies to bid for the Tourist Refund Scheme, had identified Kuantan as one of the eight main international airports where the tourist refund agent will have to place a counter or mail box to refund the goods and services tax paid by tourists for their shopping. In fact, the tender document referred to the airport as Sultan Ahmad Shah, Kuantan, Pahang International Airport.

The goods and services tax will come into force on April 1, 2015, and Malaysia’s goal is be the preferred international shopping destination.

While this year is Visit Malaysia Year, 2015 has been declared as “Year of Festivals” to keep the momentum going in line with the target of the Malaysian Tourism Plan 2020 to achieve 36 million tourist arrivals and a tourism revenue of RM168 billion by 2020.

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on February 4, 2014.