Yuan notes (Photo: Reuters)

Malaysia gathered RM84.1 billion in overall tourism receipts in 2018. Chinese tourists' expenditure reached RM12.3 billion during the year.

Research house Maybank Kim Eng said that Chinese tourists, who have been the key growth driver across Southeast Asia for the past decade, will continue to support Malaysian tourism growth. The Malaysian Tourism Board's data showed that visitor arrivals to Malaysia alleviated 3.0 percent in 2017 before easing another 0.4 percent last year to 25.8 million.

Wong-Chew Hann, an analyst at Maybank Kim Eng, said on his delivery report that the lack of promotion over the past few months partly contributed to the decline. According to him, it is something that the government needs to do to step up its efforts.

Singapore contributed 41 percent of 25.8 million tourists in Malaysia in 2018. According to data, some tourists deterred from crossing over to visit Malaysia because of the congestion at land checkpoints due to the new biometric system and strengthening of the ringgit against the Singapore dollar. Mr. Wong said that Malaysia needs to consider e-visa for visitors from Singapore to counter the land checkpoints issue.

Singapore dollar was exchangeable for RM3.17 back in April 2017. It can only fetch RM3.04 as the ringgit strengthened over the years. A total of 2.9 million tourists visited Malaysia from China. Ban Tian, Chinese Ambassador to Malaysia, reported recently that he expects 3.5 million tourists from China to fly into Malaysia this year.

The research house projected that more inbound Chinese visitors this year will moderate the adverse impact of fewer Singaporean visitors on the Malaysian tourism industry as Chinese visitors spend an average of RM4,200 which is a lot more than other visitors. Chinese tourists are mostly attracted to casinos. Asian governments including Malaysia are increasingly turning to integrated resorts for tax revenues in anticipation of higher tourist arrivals from China.

Samuel Yin, a gaming analyst in Maybank Kim Eng, noted that Malaysian casino tax rates increased by 10 percent since November 2018. Tourism plays a significant role in Malaysia's economy since it drives services exports, current account, and foreign currency reserves.

According to the report, the number of hotel rooms in Malaysia totaled 308,200. Malaysia is globally competitive in terms of cost of living and quality of healthcare. According to Mr. Wong, many of the participants were from China and based in Johor due to the presence of Chinese developers there. Chinese also like Penang. Western participants, however, prefer Penang and Langkawi.