Malaysia said it is hoping to lure 20 million tourists in 2005 and earn $9.2 billion in revenue as tourism surges in the aftermath of the 26 December tsunamis.
The government had earlier in the year set a modest target of 16.6 million tourist arrivals for 2005 but Deputy Tourism Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said this has been adjusted to 20 million.
"Our outbound tourist figure was 20 million people while inbound was 15.6 million last year ... it is not balanced. We want these two figures equal or inbound tourist figures to be more than outbound and I think we can achieve it," Ahmad Zahid was quoted as saying by the official Bernama news agency on Saturday.
He said that prior to the 26 December tsunami which devastated countries around the Indian Ocean, Malaysia recorded an average of 1.2 million tourists a month but the figure climbed steadily to 1.3 million in the first two months of 2005 and hit 1.4 million in March.
Extra flights by national carrier Malaysia Airlines during the summer season would also help boost the number of arrivals, he said.
"Malaysia Airlines alone will have 220 flights from the Middle East into the country during the summer season there in the next three months. This will make available a total of 132,000 seats," he added.
Increase in Arab tourists
The government is targeting about 200,000 Arab tourist arrivals this year, an increase of 40% compared to last year.
The number of Arab tourists visiting Malaysia doubled in 2004 as many shunned traditional holidays in terrorism-obsessed Western countries where Muslim visitors often face visa difficulties.
Malaysia says it will add extra
flights to boost tourism
Tourism is Malaysia's second-largest foreign exchange earner, grossing about $7.9 billion in 2004 from 15 million visitors.
With the revised inbound tourist projection, Malaysia is now expected to earn $9.2 billion in foreign exchange this year from the industry, Bernama said.
Malaysia escaped the huge death tolls suffered by other Indian Ocean countries during the tsunami which hit the region.
Nearly 70 people were killed in the country, a fraction of the almost 130,000 who died in neighbouring Indonesia alone.