KUALA LUMPUR: Shopping complexes and other popular Malaysian tourist haunts will stay open until the early morning hours in a new move to lure thousands of rich Arab holidaymakers to part with their cash, a report said on Tuesday. The number of Arab tourists visiting Malaysia doubled last year as many shunned traditional holidays in terrorism-obsessed Western countries where Muslim visitors often face visa difficulties.
"This year we are targeting about 200,000 [Arab tourist arrivals] which represents an increase of about 40 percent," deputy Tourism Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was quoted as saying by the Malay Mail newspaper.
Zahid said shopping malls, coffee houses and parks would be kept open past midnight beginning in June.
Hotel and restaurant operators would serve West Asian food and bring Arab cooks to work in the country, while an "Arab Street," would be introduced in the capital Kuala Lumpur to make the Middle East tourists feel at home,he said.
Zahid said about 560 Arab-speaking students from the International Islamic University would be deployed at hotels and other popular destinations to improve the service industry.
To ensure the security of Arab tourists, 10 surveillance cameras would be located throughout the city to deter crimes, he added.
Arab tourists spent an average of 4,500 ringgit per person ($1,184), almost double that of any other tourists, he said.
Tourism is Malaysia's second-largest foreign exchange earner, grossing about 30 billion ringgit in 2004 from 15 million visitors. - AFPParent site: "Focus on Malaysia"