LANGKAWI, Malaysia - Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak hopes the tragedy of missing flight MH370 carrying 239 passengers and crew members will not significantly impact tourist arrivals.
The Prime Minister added that 28.8 million people are expected to visit Malaysia this year, an increase of 12 per cent compared to last year.
"Hopefully, the tragic loss of MH370 will not significantly impact our Visit Malaysia Year target.
"We are now the second-most visited destination in all of South-East Asia," said Najib in his speech during the official unveiling of Perdana Quay masterplan and ground-breaking ceremony of The Burau Langkawi at the site formerly known as Mutiara Burau Bay Resort.
The Perdana Quay masterplan, to be undertaken by Tradewinds Corporation Bhd, is a massive 97ha mixed development with a gross development value of RM4bil over the next decade.
Najib said Malaysia is expected to receive 36 million tourists in 2020, and revenue of RM168billion (S$64.7 billion) or more than RM3billion per week.
He added that tourists were also spending more while vacationing here. Last year, each tourist spent an average of more than RM2,500 during their stay - an increase of 5.2 per cent compared to 2012.
"This did not happen by chance. Over the years, we've focused our efforts on attracting high-end tourists, improving our attractions and services, and enhancing connectivity to priority markets.
"It is an ambitious target and we are well on the way of reaching it," he said.
Najib said tourism is a key element of the Economic Transforma-tion Programme to turn Malaysia into a high-income nation by 2020.
"Tourism contributes an ever-growing share of the nation's Gross Domestic Product, a share that is expected to reach 12.5 per cent this year. And when the nation's economy expands, all Malaysians will benefit."
He said that in 2011, he launched the Langkawi Tourism Blueprint, a five-year plan to make the resort island as popular as the Seychelles, Mauritius and the Maldives.
Also present were Najib's wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his wife Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali.
Present as well were Kedah Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir, the Albukhary Group owner Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary, Tradewinds International Sdn Bhd chairman Mohamed Ali Rashed Alabbar, Langkawi Development Authority chief executive officer Tan Sri Khalid Ramli as well as Tradewinds Corporation Bhd group chief executive officer Shaharul Farez Hassan.