KUALA LUMPUR: RAILWAY tourism is a fairly new sector being aggressively promoted by the government to help enrich the experience of local and foreign tourists discovering Malaysia via train.
Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz said trains were a cheaper and more relaxing way to uncover what the country had to offer.
Speaking at the launch of the Railway Tourism Packages in conjunction with Visit Malaysia Year 2014, he said the sector had great potential.
The ministry has partnered with the Railway Tourism Association Malaysia (RTAM) to develop the sector by promoting heritage and cultural destinations.
These destinations include homestays, as well as sites and buildings gazetted by the National Heritage Department.
"I believe that places like Taman Negara, archaeological parks and colonial buildings will be among the main attractions to boost the tourism and culture sector in the country.
"The packages, developed by RTAM and Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd, will provide tourists with the opportunity to travel by train and enjoy the breathtaking greenery along the east and west coasts of Peninsular Malaysia."
Nazri said tourists could experience village life by staying at the many homestays licensed by the ministry that dotted along the country's railway networks.
He said the country's tourism industry had grown by leaps and bounds, in terms of tourist arrivals and economic contribution.
"Tourism is the second-largest foreign exchange earner after manufactured goods and the seventh largest component in the country's economy.
"It contributed RM47.2 billion (S$18.3 billion) to gross national income last year."
Nazri said Malaysia was ranked among the top 10 tourist destinations in the world by popular travel guide Lonely Planet.
"The Iban longhouses in Sarawak have been listed as being in the top 10 attractions for visitors to feel at one with the families who live there.
"The United Nations World Tourism Organisation also ranked Malaysia as the 10th most visited country in the world, with 25.03 million in tourist arrivals and receipts registering at RM60.6 billion last year."
From January to September last year, it was reported that there were 18.8 billion in tourist arrivals and RM46.4 billion in receipts.