Penang maintains its top tourist draw, disputes Putrajaya’s figures
KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 7 — Penang is among the top three tourist destinations in Malaysia and ahead of historic Melaka, a state government official said today, refuting claims its cultural twin had overtaken the state last year.
Its tourism, culture, arts and heritage chief, Danny Law Heng Kiang said Penang has maintained its third place ranking out of the 13 states for the past two years in drawing foreign tourists, behind the national capital and Pahang.
Yesterday, Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen remarked that the south-west state had edged out Pakatan Rakyat-ruled Penang as tourism destination attracting some 8.9 million tourists throughout last year to the latter’s 5.96 million.
“I don’t know where she got the 8.9 million from,” Law told The Malaysian Insider in a phone call from George Town.
He added that Penang had jumped to third spot in 2008 from fourth, after it gained the Unesco World Heritage Site award.
In comparison, Melaka which jointly received the Unesco award, tumbled back to sixth place last year behind Sabah and Kedah after a surge in foreign tourist arrivals pushed it up a step in 2008.
Ng had said the disputed statistics were compiled by the ministry’s research unit.
“The statistics speaks for itself. Tourist arrival in Penang has dropped from 6.3 million in 2008 according to the statistics from our research division,” jet-setting minister was reported saying after opening the revamped Penang Hill funicular train station.
But Law disputed the figures.
Based on his research, Penang drew 5.96 million foreign tourists last year, while Melaka only drew 3.76 million foreign tourists in the same period.
Melaka Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam had boasted tourist arrivals in his state have increased four-fold, from 1.7 million in 2000 to 8.9 million last year.
But he did admit that eighty per cent of them were domestic, in an interview with The Malaysian Insider earlier this year, before declaring Melaka a developed state last month.
Law lamented Ng’s seemingly political remark directed at Penang.
The federal minister had said the PR administration should show more initiative to train its tourist guides to be better-informed about Penang’s heritage and history.
Ng had pointed Penang had an international airport with a total of 191 flights from 12 international airlines flying directly into the city weekly.
Law, who is also Batu Lanchang lawmaker, said the federal government should be less focused on highlighting the tourism losses of the states and instead work together to better promote Malaysia as a whole to the world.
“Long-haul tourists, like those in the US, they don’t just come to Penang or Melaka and then go off… they want to know what Malaysia has to offer,” he pointed out.
Law added that Malaysia faced stiff enough competition from other holiday destinations around the region, and cited Bangkok and Bali as examples.
He was confident Penang will remain ahead of Melaka in this year’s race to be the top tourist spot in the country, based on the first quarter tally of foreign tourist arrivals.
He noted that Penang registered 943,491 foreign tourists between January and March this year, compared to Melaka’s 558,668 foreign visitors in the same period.