Malaysia is not exactly a tourism hot spot for Southern Californians. In fact, tourists from the United States accounted for less than 1% of the 2.9 million visitors last year to that Southeast Asian country.
Malaysia is out to change that.
The partly government-owned Malaysian Airline System recently inaugurated service to the United States by starting two weekly direct flights from Los Angeles to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia's capital. And the Tourist Development Corp. of Malaysia will be opening an office in Los Angeles during the next few months. In addition, about $4 million will be spent this year in advertising to potential U.S. tourists.
"This is the first time we are looking seriously at the United States," said Hamzah Aboul Majid, director general of the Tourist Development Corp. of Malaysia, who was in town recently with a 38-member troupe of dancers and models to drum up interest in Malaysian tourism. The tourism mission then traveled to Vancouver, Canada, and to San Francisco.
Most of Malaysia's tourism comes from nearby Asian countries, Australia and Europe, he said. Tourism is Malaysia's fifth-largest source of foreign currency exchange and "we want to make it No. 3," Hamzah said. (In Malaysia, the first of a person's series of names is the surname and used on second reference.)
"Americans are very welcome in Malaysia," he said. "It's a congenial destination" with beaches, tropical jungles and international business centers, he said.