KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama) - Tourists from Saudi Arabia have been arriving in droves in Malaysia over the years, thanks to the Malaysian hospitality and the many attractions in the country.
The Ministry of Tourism and Culture had recorded an increase of Saudi tourist arrivals from 99,754 in 2015 to 123,878 in 2016, an increase of 24.2 percent within a year.
"The figure is expected to increase to 130,000 this year due to factors like additional direct flights from Saudi Arabia to Kuala Lumpur by Saudi Airlines, Malindo Air, Malaysia Airlines (MAS) and AirAsia.
"Apart from more direct flights, Malaysia also has new attractions to offer for the Saudis - Movie Animation Park Studios (MAPS) in Perak, A Famosa Premium Outlet in Melaka, with more hotels and service apartments made available for the Saudis to put up," said the ministry's spokesperson to Bernama.
ISLAMIC NATION, HALAL CUSINE
However, the increase in tourists numbers are also attributed to the efforts taken by both sides following the signing of a MoU on 16 May, 2016 to foster cooperation in the area of tourism between Malaysia and Arab Saudi.
Both sides have agreed to take the necessary steps to ramp up the promotion and cooperation in tourism through studies and training in programmes relating to tourism.
Elaborating further on the Saudis arriving in the country, the spokesperson said the availability of halal food and easy communication also helped draw them to Malaysia.
"Apart from that, Malaysia being an affordable holiday destination is another plus point. Among their choice destination in Malaysia are Langkawi, Sabah, Penang, Johor and Melaka," said the source.
For a Saudi, Ghadeer Fatani, 21, the fact that Malaysia is an Islamic country was also among the reasons that prompted her to visit Malaysia in 2015.
She was in the nation's capital city for a few days at the end of 2015 and the Malaysian hospitality won her heart.
"I would say Malaysians have kind and welcoming personalities... They left a good impression on me. I feel glad that despite of the multiple religions and races, they still have respect for religious tolerance.
"I did not experience any difficulties during my visit to Malaysia because the culture there is very much Islamic, like in my country. Beside that, I found Malaysians to be very caring towards visitors and this made foreigners like me feel comfortable," she said sharing her experience while in Malaysia.
THE MAGIC OF MALAYSIAN HOSPITALITY
Meanwhile, another Saudi, Dr Bandar Khalid Althubyani who has been in Malaysia since July 2010 noted that the Malaysian hospitality is what made him welcomed in the country.
The lecturer with Madinah Islamic Universiti who just completed his PhD with the International Islamic University Malaysia adopted well into the society here with the help of the locals.
"Malaysian people are very friendly. The society helped us to involve in their programmes and activities... nowadays, we have a lot of Malaysian friends.
"Not only we accepted Malaysian culture but also learnt few words in Bahasa such as 'berapa harga, apa khabar and khabar baik'. In fact, we also like Malaysian traditional food especially satay ayam, roti canai and teh tarik which is so yummy," said Bandar who will be returning home soon.
Bandar, 34, who arrived here with his wife and children also found that the country's universities provide the best education in Asia.
"Besides, it also affordable in terms of cost of living and tuition fees. In general, education in Malaysia is perfect based on educational environment, professional lecturers, good facilities, simple educational process, which are the basis for making Malaysian universities have unique education.
"These are the reasons why some Malaysian universities have good QS rankings. The graduates are in demand in the labour market and a lot of Saudi students who studied in Malaysian universities are decision makers in their job, I know some of them are deans and deputy deans in their universities," he said.
On the Malaysia-Saudi ties, Bandar opined that the bilateral ties have been enhanced over the years with both countries sharing the common goals of helping the ummah face the challenges and contribute to global peace.
On Sunday, Saudi's King Salman Abdulaziz Al Saud arrived for a four-day visit to Malaysia.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said that King Salman's visit to Malaysia would further consolidate the bilateral ties based on the mutual trust and respect that have existed all this while.
The prime minister noted that Kuala Lumpur is grateful for the fact King Salman himself chose Malaysia as his first destination in Southeast Asia since ascending to the throne in January 2015.