Malaysia Launches Tourism Push

KUALA LUMPUR ~ Malaysia has kicked off a year-long tourism campaign with a lavish celebration, which at its pinnacle saw it throw on the switch for a massive 60-metre ferris wheel in a blaze of fireworks.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi launched the Visit Malaysia Year 2007 campaign at a lake park in Kuala Lumpur’s north at the weekend that saw thousands of Malaysians drawn by a free pop concert and fireworks.

“Please come to Malaysia. This is the best choice, the best choice for you,” Abdullah said in a speech televised nationally, and which organizers said was beamed to 10 countries, including Japan and Australia.

Abdullah, who noted Malaysia was also marking its 50th year of independence in 2007, also called on Malaysians to keep the country clean for tourists, and to be friendly and helpful.

“We must be prepared to help them,” he said.

The premier was the first to ride the Eye on Malaysia, located on the edge of the capital’s Titiwangsa lake, as fireworks and stunt water-skiers dazzled onlookers.

Inspired by Britain’s famous London Eye ferris wheel, tourism officials say the Eye on Malaysia is the first of its kind in Southeast Asia.

Malaysia is aiming to see 20.1 million arrivals in 2007 from the campaign, up from some 17.5 million in 2006, and to draw in receipts of some 44.5 billion ringgit (US$12.67 billion).

Faced with growing regional competition for the tourist dollar, Malaysia is shelling out some 200 million ringgit during the year to boost tourism, which is the nation’s second-largest foreign exchange earner.

Analysts have said efforts are likely to be successful, providing gains to accommodation, shopping and food and beverage sectors.

Brokerage house TA Securities said in a report for 2007, released in December, that transportation would be a major beneficiary, with revenue for the sector forecast to hit 5.4 billion ringgit, 29 percent higher than in 2006.

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