Malaysiakini Letter

The incredulous figures of visitor arrivals into M'sia

CY Ming  |  Published:

LETTER | According to a Jan 25 Bernama report, between 20 and 30 percent of the estimated 23 million tourists who entered Malaysia last year were found to have overstayed in the country.

Based on an average of 25 percent, it would mean there were 5,750,000 overstaying foreigners. But I find these figures incredulous, as they cannot be more than two to three percent.

Even if only two and a half percent of visitors, or 575,000, had overstayed, the figure is still very high and alarming. But in the first place, why such a broad range of 20 to 30 percent?

If all 137 entry and exit points are computerised, the Immigration Department would know exactly the total number of people entering or leaving our country at the press of a button.

If so, monthly figures could be totalled up the day after each calendar month with breakdowns on foreign nationalities and Malaysians, and whether the entries or exits were by air, land or sea.

It is now approaching the end of January, but visitor arrival figures in Tourism Malaysia’s website are until last September, totalling 19,386,115. If the pattern is repeated in the last quarter of the year, the projected number for 2018 is 25,848,153, compared to 25,948,459 for 2017.

But Bernama reported only an estimated 23 million tourists entered Malaysia last year. If this is correct, then only 3,613,885 arrived during the last quarter, compared to an average of 6,462,038 in the three preceding quarters.

However, the United Nations World Tourism Organisation estimated there were 23.47 million visitors to Malaysia in 2018. Based on this figure, then 4,083,885 came during the last quarter. And if this is repeated for the whole of 2019, total number of visitors would only be 16,335,540.

If so, many tourism enterprises would be closing shop as many have jumped on the tourism bandwagon, because the Malaysia Tourism Transformation Plan targeted a large number of visitors.

Last March, Tourism Malaysia was confident that its forecast of a 39 percent increase in visitor arrivals from 25.9 million in 2017 to 36 million in 2020 was achievable. 

Earlier, targets were set at 26.8 million for 2013, 28 million for 2014, 29.4 million for 2015, 30.5 million for 2016, 31.8 million for 2017 and 33.1 million for 2018.

Last year, all Asean countries except Malaysia saw an increase of visitor arrivals, with Vietnam leading the pack at 19.9 percent and neighbouring Indonesia 11.6 percent. Thailand continued to surge ahead with 38.15 million visitors.

If we had been proactive, the measures taken were half-hearted or grossly inadequate. We cannot even be reactive when visitor arrival figures are released four months later. 

It would be interesting to see how the powers that be respond to the incredulous figures dished out to the public.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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