Star daily has announced that Arab investors are willing to spend $303 million to build two “Arab cities” in the town of Malacca, Malaysia. This is with the aim of enticing tourists from Middle East to visit the historic city. The project, which is estimated to cost over $1.1 billion will include a shopping complex, an Arabian Bazaar, a five star hotel, Middle Eastern restaurants, a water theme park and an Arabic health and beauty spa that will be unisex.

The chief Minister for Malacca, Mr. Mohamad Ali Rustam, was quoted saying that the project will give locals an opportunity to relish and experience the Arabic culture, in addition to drawing more tourists from Middle East. The project is projected to be complete come 2012.

Star daily said that one of the “Arab Cities” will be located west of the historic port at a beachside resort while the other will be situated on a little island, found south of Malacca town. Due to the Islamic image that Malaysia portrays, the recent past has seen the tourism industry record a rapid increase in the number of extravagant tourists from the Middle East.

Last year alone, Malaysia recorded over 264,338 tourists from Middle East, nearly doubling the figure that was recorded in the year 2005. An Arab Street has already been introduced in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital, in an effort to make tourists from the region feel at home. Equally, restaurants and hotels are employing Arab chefs to prepare West Asian food.

In 2007, tourism was the second best foreign exchange earner in Malaysia, bringing in over $14 billion as revenue, thanks to the over 21 million tourists who visited that year. The government though estimates that this year tourist numbers will plummet 9.3 percent, 20 million due to the global economic crisis.

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