KUALA LUMPUR, Fri. -
Tourism contributed about RM20 billion to the country's earnings last year from some 10.2 million tourist arrivals, including day trippers from neighbouring countries.
The industry's boost to foreign exchange earnings amounted to RM17 billion, while the hospitality industry contributed another RM2 billion in corporate tax and another half billion ringgit through service tax.
This figure has placed the tourism industry as the country's second best foreign exchange earner from third place, making it an increasing important sector to the national economy.
The evergrowing tourism industry was proof that more people were accepting travel as a necessity and no longer as an extravagance, Culture, Arts and Tourism Minister Datuk Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir said at a media briefing at the Pacific Asia Travel Association conference at the ministry today.
Not only does travel contribute to the national economy but also meetings and international conventions and exhibitions (MICE) such as the Pata which opens this weekend.
This is the third time Malaysia will be hosting the event but this time around, its objectives would be completely different.
The first Pata conference was held here in 1972 with the objective of placing Malaysia on the international tourism map.
The second Pata conference was held in 1986 and that was a major success as it introduced the country's rich and varied range of tourism destinations.
He said Malaysia was now the placed 18th on the tourism destination list and this time, some 2,000 delegates for Pata 2001 will share the country's rich and diverse culture.
"We will be promoting 'Malaysia Truly Asia' and the 'Colours of Asia' and are going to ensure that we will be a first class host."
Kadir said Malaysia was very proud to host Pata 2001 as it coincided with Pata's golden jubilee celebration with its theme "Proud Past - Promising Future".
He said: "It is indeed an honour for Malaysia."
Pata 2001 would aim at further impressing the delegates and picking the country as a "must visit" destination, he added.
To be held at the Putra World Trade Centre, Pata 2001 is a significant event as delegates will also be celebrating the association's 50th anniversary.
There will be symposiums and various other programmes organised by Pata, Malaysia chapter.
Seventy member countries are expected to attend the five-day event starting on Sunday and will draw participants from a wide-range of tourism and tourism-related fields such as airlines, shipping lines, tour operators and travel agents.
The industry sees the conference as a good way to neutralise any negative effects of external influence on the economy and seek the co-operation of the people to ensure Malaysia is seen in a positive light.
Besides, the event would help counter negative foreign Press reports.
"One of the ways Pata 2001 can help in countering negative reporting by some segments of the international Press against our country is by showcasing to the delegates what Malaysia is all about ... how peaceful and stable it is politically and economically," he said.
The conference is also seen as an excellent avenue for both foreign and local delegates to establish networking ties.
Capitalising on the presence of key personalities in the Asia-Pacific tourism trade at the event, Tourism Malaysia will be showcasing all the attractions and attributes of the country as well as promoting Malaysia as a premier tourist destination in the region.
Meanwhile, Kadir urged building owners to decorate their buildings and premises in a festive manner and lights strung on trees.
"But more importantly, they have to take care of cleanliness and the environment," he said.
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