Kuala Lumpur (The Star/ANN) - The tourism ministry of Malaysia has set its sights on the East Asian market as the country records increase in tourist arrivals from China and Japan.
Tourism Minister Dr Ng Yen Yen said the government has made East Asia its "primary focus" and is working hard to make Malaysia more attractive to Chinese and Japanese tourists.
"Between January and June this year, tourists from China recorded 34 per cent in growth while Japan recorded 32.5 per cent," Dr Ng said in an interview.
"We are fortunate to have started working with China since 1999 and today it is the third on the tourist arrivals chart," she said.
The top two countries are Singapore and Indonesia.
Dr Ng said Malaysia received about 300,000 visitors from Japan every year and her ministry hoped to breach the one million arrivals mark in four years.
Also included in the focus for East Asian tourists are visitors from South Korea and Taiwan.
Dr Ng noted that Malaysia also attracted younger tourists from East Asia as an increasing number were into eco-tourism and the great outdoors.
On September 4, Dr Ng was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Josai International University in Japan as a recognition for her contributions in the tourism industry. While there, she also met with Japanese mayors to promote the country.
"The Japanese are very impressed at the fast growth of Malaysia's tourism industry. In the 90s, both Malaysia and Japan recorded about five million tourist arrivals annually. Today, Japan receives nine million tourists a year, and Malaysia is recording about 24 million arrivals.
"We have also maintained the world number nine spot in tourists arrivals, ahead of all Asean countries. Only China is on top of us in the top 10," she said.
At a press conference on 1Malaysia Tourism Lantern Festival, Dr Ng announced that this year's would be the biggest ever and would stretch to 10 days.
Before this, the festival was only a day-long affair.
Over 400,000 tourists are expected to witness the event that will run from September 21 to September 30.
A giant 6-metre-high lantern of the 1Malaysia logo is poised to be the star attraction at Central Market.