Sarawak - exudes a rustic laid-back vibe is among Aussie favorite destinations when visiting Malaysia.

Sarawak - exudes a rustic laid-back vibe is among Aussie favorite destinations when visiting Malaysia.

The strong Australian dollar and Malaysia’s ranking as a top tourist destination has resulted in a 33 per cent increase, to a record 427,076, in Aussie departures to Malaysia last year.

The increase by more than 100,000 visitors from the previous year is also attributed to Australians’ preference for short-haul destinations — especially Malaysia and other Asean holiday spots — compared with the more expensive ones in Europe and the United States.

Up to September this year, Australian arrivals in Kuala Lumpur registered an increase of 20.6 per cent to 371,488 as compared with the same period last year.

Tourism Malaysia Sydney director Shahrin Mokhtar said the change was due to Australians preferring affordable places closer to home as against expensive long-haul travel destinations in the west.

“We expect to see even more Australians visiting this year because of the strong Australian dollar (A$1= RM3), which is fantastic value for a holiday in Malaysia,” he said.

“It’s even cheaper than the high-cost holiday within Australia.

“In addition, Australians feel the ‘destination fatigue’ towards local holiday venues that do not offer the cultural and physically exotic nature as Malaysia’s,” he said.

Australia, Shahrin said, was among the top 10 tourist-generating markets for Malaysia because it ranked high among Australians as a “must-visit” destination.

This was as a result of Tourism Malaysia’s efforts to promote Malaysia as a preferred destination among Australians and New Zealanders, and this was visible through various marketing campaigns and regional road shows (with the theme “Fun & Affordable”) held in various parts of Australia.

Meanwhile, New Zealander arrivals in Malaysia has also recorded a double-digit growth of 35.6 per cent to 56,117 in 2008. This year (January-September) figures posted showed an increase of 13.5 per cent to 45,362.

The Australian outbound tourism market has not suffered as much as predicted during the global financial crisis, not nearly as much as it did after the New York World Trade Centre 9/11 terrorist attacks and the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Asian bird flu outbreaks.

Compared with the other Asean destinations, Malaysia is a fairly strong drawcard for Australians and New Zealanders, attributed to a large extent to its positioning as an interesting alternative to the more predictable locations such as Bali (Indonesia), Thailand and Fiji, Shahrin said.