Malaysia inbound agents sweat to arrest declining Middle East arrivals

Arab tourists buying drinks along Petaling Street in Kuala Lumpur's Chinatown

Malaysian exhibitors at the upcoming Arabian Travel Market (ATM) are strategising how they can attract Middle East tourists especially during the upcoming summer travel season (June to August).

This is in light of Malaysia’s two largest Middle Eastern markets showing a double-digit decline in 2017 over 2016. Arrivals from UAE dropped 39.5 per cent to 8,555 tourists in 2017 while the largest market, Saudi Arabia, saw a 18.8 per cent decline to 100,549 tourists during the same period.

Arab tourists buying drinks along Petaling Street in Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown

Ally Bhoonee, executive director of World Avenues, said: “We are talking to hoteliers in key destinations such as Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Langkawi to offer the same rates as they do other markets and not have a surcharge during the Middle East season, as the market has not been doing well over the last three years.”

Ally added that there was a need to stay competitive as this year will be challenging due to competition from regional destinations, as well as destinations within a six-hour flight time from the Middle East.

“Everyone is vying for this market as the Middle East travellers are known to be good spenders,” he opined.

Another operator, Noor M Ismail, general manager, Panorama Destination Malaysia, said that the company will be promoting new destinations such as Kota Kinabalu, Port Dickson and Ipoh, as well as the usual Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Langkawi.

“For families, we will be promoting theme parks in Sunway, Ipoh and Penang,” shared Noor.

As parent company Panorama Destination Indonesia will be exhibiting at ATM, it will be passing on leads and contacts to Panorama Destination Malaysia which commenced operations on April 1.

In addition, Panorama Destination Malaysia will be adapting to the working hours of the Middle East market so as to respond to enquiries quickly.

Sharing his rationale, Noor said: “Requests from agents are straightforward. They want a city and beach combination. If you reply quickly, you are likely to get the business.”

Meanwhile, with Qatar Airways’ new direct flights from Doha to Penang, Lexis Suites Penang director of sales and marketing, Mark De Souza, said he will propose to Qatar outbound agents at ATM to create itineraries that start in Penang and end in Kuala Lumpur.

Souza is also looking at creating special all-in-one 4D/3N packages targeted at the Middle East market combining transfers, round island tours and dinners at the hotel.

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