SEPANG, July 22 (Bernama) -- Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today 2020 is still a special year for Malaysians despite the country not achieving the vision of becoming a developed nation.
"It’s not going to be the culmination of our aim to become a developed country but at least Tourism Malaysia is showing that we are going to celebrate 2020 anyway," he told reporters after launching the Visit Malaysia Year 2020 logo at the KL International Airport (KLIA), here.
Therefore, Dr Mahathir said, every Malaysian should help in welcoming the tourists by being friendly, smiling all the time, and trying to solve whatever problem they may face.
"One of the things that tourists are attracted to is to find the host hospitable, always smiling, serving them well, showing them the way and anything else that they ask to know Malaysia well," he said.
Dr Mahathir said Malaysia has done well in the tourism industry despite not having a lot of historical sites or pyramids.
"Malaysia’s tourism industry continues to grow from strength to strength. Looking back to 1990 and 1994, when I launched the Visit Malaysia Year campaigns, we were already aware that tourism would be an important factor in the national economy.
"Today, almost three decades later, what we had envisaged then had come true and even more. Tourist arrivals have increased steadily and Malaysia has truly become popular and able to hold our own against other global destinations," he said.
Dr Mahathir pointed out that Kuala Lumpur was ranked ninth in the list of most-visited cities in 2017, and this was according to the Top 100 City Destinations 2018 Report.
"Therefore, it is something that we can be proud of and it should serve to motivate us to double our promotional efforts of Malaysia in the future," he added.
Asked why Malaysia was a little slow in promoting Visit Malaysia Year 2020 compared to other countries promoting their visit campaigns, Dr Mahathir said: “This kind of thing happens all the time; we can plan but God determines. If times are bad, it will be delayed. If times are good, it will be early.”
On the cooperation with Sharp to promote Malaysia, Dr Mahathir said Sharp is one of the biggest investors in Malaysia.
"Sharp produces more than two million television sets in Malaysia for export to the rest of the world. Malaysia is a hospitable country for them to invest here and, therefore, they are joining us in promoting Malaysia," he said, adding that Sharp, being a Japanese brand, would help to further promote Malaysia, especially in Japan.
Besides the Japanese tourists, Dr Mahathir said, the Chinese would be the biggest number of tourists coming to Malaysia with the target of over three million this year.
Asked about the Malaysia-China Cultural Tourism Year in 2020, Dr Mahathir said China has and will become an important country for Malaysia.
"We have been trading with China for 2,000 years and now, of course, China is our biggest trading partner. We will do everything possible to make Malaysia popular in China and attract Chinese tourists to Malaysia," he said.
Furthermore, Malaysia recently expanded ‘Visa on Arrival’ facilities to 13 entry points to ensure hassle-free entry for nationals from China and India, two of the fastest-growing outbound tourist markets in the world.
Asked about certain groups which always protest to prevent certain concerts from being held in the country, Dr Mahathir said these are the voices of the minority and it did not represent the majority.
"The people who protest are the minority. I think we should cater to the majority, but the majority must also make their voices heard … so that it doesn't look as if we are rejecting the people’s voice.
"It is not the people’s voice, it is just a group of activists who try to show they are the majority in Malaysia, but they are not," he said.