“Tourism Ministry should address confusing tourist arrival figures”

I AM bewildered by the report “Tourist arrivals to Malaysia poised to rise fourfold” published on Thursday (Dec 29). 

According to Kenanga Research, tourist arrivals to Malaysia are projected to jump fourfold to 9.6 million in 2023 from an estimated 2.5 million a year ago on the back of the reopening of international borders.

If that is the case, what I wrote earlier was completely incorrect, as my figure for this year has more than quadrupled and my figure for next year has more than doubled.

I had predicted that foreign tourist arrivals would be about 9.7 million this year and would be around 18 million in 2023 if there is no new coronavirus outbreak and China allows its citizens to travel freely abroad for leisure travel.

My figures were based on actual numbers that were posted on the website of Tourism Malaysia, which stood at 5,556,281 for the first nine months of this year. 

Arrival figures for the first quarter of the year were only 98,053. But after travel restrictions were lifted in April and COVID-19 conditions eased in May, it rocketed to 2,034,107 in Q2.

The number shot up to 3,424,121 in Q3, and I had predicted the figure to be around 4.2 million in the last quarter of the year. If so, total foreign arrivals would exceed 9.7 million.

Although there is a rare error in adding the figures in Tourism Malaysia’s report for August, the difference being 360 arrivals, all figures posted in the “Top 45 Tourist Arrivals” have been error-free so far. 

And for the official record, foreign tourist arrivals were 26,100,784 in 2019, 4,332,722 in 2020, and 134,728 in 2021. As such, I would assume that the reported 2.5 million figure appears to have been plucked from the wrong source.

Many are unaware that foreign visitors who entered Malaysia but did not stay overnight are counted separately. In 2019, there were 8,944,841 foreign excursionists, 1,768,656 in 2020, 265,137 in 2021, and 2,525,098 for the first nine months of 2022. — Dec 30, 2022


YS Chan is the master trainer for Mesra Malaysia and Travel and Tours Enhancement Course and an Asean Tourism Master Trainer. He is also a tourism and transport business consultant. 

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.     

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