KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia is 10th on the United Nations World Tourism Organisation's (UNWTO) list of most-visited countries.
The country recorded 25 million tourist arrivals in 2012. Out of the figure, 74 per cent or 18.5 million tourists were from Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Brunei and the Philippines.
Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) vice-president (inbound) Tan Kok Liang said the number of ASEAN tourists to Malaysia was expected to keep increasing.
This was due to the strong economic growth in the region, as well as the good working relationship among the ASEAN countries.
"Market and political stability are also contributing factors, while Malaysia's service industry is one of the best and friendliest in the world," he said.
Besides this, he said Malaysia had a good mix of heritage sites, beautiful beaches, diverse cultural attractions and good infrastructure.
This corresponds to the UNWTO 2013 edition tourism highlights, which largely attributed South-East Asia's growth to strong intra-regional demand.
Thailand led this growth with a 16 per cent increase in tourists over 2011, while Cambodia and Vietnam recorded double-digit growth in 2012, with 24 per cent and 14 per cent respectively.
Malaysia slipped one rung to 10th place on this year's UNWTO list, with the Russian Federation overtaking it by recording 25.7 million tourist arrivals in 2012.
France still remains at the top with a whopping 83 million visitors, followed by the United States (67 million) and China (57.7 million).
Tan did not think the recent spate of shooting incidents would deter tourist arrivals, pointing out that they were not acts of terrorism such as school shootings in the United States.
"These are unfortunate cases of individuals being targeted. I hope it stops soon, but I think we should not sensationalise it," he urged.
However, Malaysia was not in the top 10 spots for international tourism receipts.
It was led by the United States (US$126.2 billion), Spain ($55.9 billion) and France ($53.7 billion).
Malaysia recorded $20.25 million in comparison.
Tan attributed this to Malaysia's predominant market mix of ASEAN tourism arrivals compared to those from other parts of the world.
He pointed out that ASEAN tourists would also have shorter stays here as there was no need to sit through long-haul flights.
"Also, because many of these are still developing countries, tourists' purchasing power will be lower than those from developed countries."