Charmed By Common Traits Print E-mail
Charmed by common traits
Wanted: tourist arrivals from the Middle East. They are said to spend three times more than other foreign tourists and their healthy spending habits are beefing up our tourism coffers. Sunday Star looks at what draws them here and how they rate as visitors to this country.

For newly wed Saudi Arabian couple Mohammed Al-Mamrani and Layla, Malaysia is the perfect destination for their honeymoon.
    ‘It is because of the culture you have here,’ Al-Mamrani says. ‘I have been in Malaysia before and I like the country very much.’
    He tells us why Malaysia is such a draw. ‘Everything here fits us – the culture, the food, the prices are good, but mostly the people – everyone is friendly and very helpful.’
    Al-Mamrani is but one of the many tourists from Middle East (ME) countries that are coming to Malaysia to spend their holiday. And as statistic show, ME tourists arrivals are increasing yearly. Tellingly, in 2006, tourist numbers from Jordan and Saudi Arabia increased in excess of 25% compared to 2005.
    The minister reiterated how valuable this group of tourists was to the country and the tourism industry by virtue of their spending power – they spend three times more money than other visitors to the country. Arab tourists, who make up the largest arrivals after those from Asia and Europe, spend an average of seven days in Malaysia, with each family spend about RM1000 a day.
    A. Najib Arriffin, there are broad social and cultural traits that do make up the ME tourists but the biggest role has to do with religion, and the underlying trait is that they practice Islam.’
    Mohd Kamarul Yusof, a private tour operator explains,‘As Malaysia is a Muslim country, they feel more comfortable here. Additionally, English is widely spoken, so they are able to communicate with locals.
    Shahad Hussien, 22, from Iraq and Nuray Yildie, 31 from Turkey, acknowledge the significance of the religious factor when choosing Malaysia as a destination. Say Nuray,’ We can go almost anywhere and eat anything we want. Although Malaysia is a Muslim country, it is different experience for us – you can find different kinds of religions here.’
    Najib adds:’ The overall Islamic ambience plays a big part. the places they go for food will be halal, and they can perform prayers anytime at a mosque or surau. We are relaxed and tolerant Muslim country, and some have said they like the way Islam practised in Malaysia. As a practical example, Muslim ladies here have free choice – no one is forced to wear a tudung.’
    Besides shopping, Najib says that they like to have a good bit of family fun. ‘Those with children enjoy theme parks. Places like Genting Highlands and Sunway Lagoon are a must-see for them.