Chinese New Year revellers join Visit Kelantan Year festivities

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (eTN) – Watched by 174 media and travel industry representatives from 12 countries covering Europe, the Middle East and immediate ASEAN neighbors, Kelantan state in the north east of peninsular Malaysia, officially launched its year-long Visit Kelantan Year program, with the beating of its “heritage” traditional drums, display of cultural performances and fireworks.

It is the last of the three Malaysian states to launch its “Visit Year” activities, following earlier lunchings by Kedah and Terengganu states.

Launched by Nik Aziz Mat, chief minister of the singular state ruled by an opposition party in the Malaysian political scene, the state neighboring southern Thailand hopes to lure more tourists.

The state, whose government and intrinsic character of its inhabitants, is seen as “different” by the rest of the country, has surprised the industry by its ability to attract past 5 million tourists in the past year, as many as the more popular and well-known Malacca state.

Mohd Arif Nor, who heads the state’s tourist information center, has completed plans for the influx of up to 5.8 million visitors to the state by year’s end. “We might equal, or even surpass Malacca’s total figure.” Last year about 5.5 million visitors passed through the state, bringing in a total revenue of almost half a billion US dollars to the “poorest” Malaysian state.

Following a series of intensive overseas promotion by Arif, the state is planning the groundwork to attract a greater number of tourists from the Middle East, the UK/Europe and South Pacific countries. “We hope to see an even split between foreign and local tourists coming to the state,” Arif added.

Arif also said the state’s year tourism promotion programs include an international kite festival, go-cart competition and local food festival. To further enhance its international image and standing, Arif said, the state tourism office will also be organizing an international tourism conference later in the year.

Meanwhile in another accolade heaped on Malaysia’s success in the travel industry, in a travel survey conducted by Geneva-based World Economic Forum (WEF) on 124 countries, Malaysia has been listed as the world’s second most “price-competitive” country, after Indonesia.

The travel and tourism industry survey listed Bahrain third, and Thailand fourth.

In its recently released Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report (TTCR), WEF praised the Malaysian government for giving “high priority” to travel and tourism, as well as the country’s good network of roads, rail, airport, ports, including domestic travel network.

Despite ranking nineteenth for the reliability of its police force and security, it ranks ahead of other developed countries including Spain, New Zealand, Portugal, Ireland, Belgium and Italy, in that order.

Malaysia’s marketing and branding of its “Malaysia Truly Asia” tagline has been described as “effective and attractive” to tourists, putting it in sixth place, after the UAE, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong and Barbados.

It is ranked thirty-first for “overall competitiveness” in the TTCR 2007 table, but still behind other Asian industry giants Singapore (8th), Japan (26th) and Taiwan (29th). “In many developing countries it is the leading industry,” said Professor Klaus Schwab, executive chairman of WEF.

More than 300 delegates from 20 countries will be invited to the WEF Forum on East Asia in Kuala Lumpur to held from June 14-16, during which delegates will focus on the region’s challenges and priorities that will ultimately shape the region’s future agenda, according to the country’s tourism ministry.