Arab investors will spend $303 million on building two "Arab Cities" to lure Arab tourists to the historic Malaysian town of Malacca, the Star daily said Wednesday.
The $1.1 billion ringgit ($303 million) project includes an Arabian bazaar, Middle Eastern restaurants, shopping complex, five-star hotel, water theme park, and a unisex Arabic health and beauty spa.
One of the "Arab Cities" will be built on a small island lying south of Malacca town, while the other will be located at a beachside resort just west of the historic port.
Malacca chief minister Mohamad Ali Rustam reportedly said the project, due for completion by 2012, will attract more Middle Eastern tourists and give locals a chance to experience Arabic culture.
Arab tourists spend on average 10 times more than other tourists, according to recent reports on Malaysian tourism that showed an increasing number of Muslim Middle Eastern tourists are seeking “halal tourism” in Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei while avoiding the U.S. and Europe because of post Sept. 11, 2001 stereotyping and racial profiling.
The country's tourism industry has seen a sharp rise in the number of big-spending tourists from the Middle East in recent years, attracted by the tropical country's Islamic image.
Muslim friendly services
Arab Muslim travelers prefer Muslim destinations where Muslim-friendly food ,halal, and hotel facilities with a copy of the Holy Qur'an and Makkah-prayer direction in each room are easily available.
Some 264,338 visitors from the region made their way to Malaysia last year, almost double the figure recorded in 2005.
The capital Kuala Lumpur has already seen the introduction of an "Arab
Street" to make tourists from the Middle East feel at home, while hotel and restaurants serve West Asian food and bring Arab cooks to work in the country.
Tourism was Malaysia's second highest foreign exchange earner in 2007, raking in $14 billion in revenue from 21 million tourists arrivals.
The government however said it expected tourist numbers to fall nine percent to 20 million this year as the global economic slowdown hits.