Tourism in Malaysia

Tourism in Malaysia

Malaysia recorded a total of four million tourists in 2020, ranking 40th in the world in absolute terms.

Without including the size of a country, such a ranking list may not be very meaningful. By putting the tourist numbers in relation to the population of Malaysia, the result is much more comparable picture: With 0.13 tourists per resident, Malaysia ranked 108th in the world. In Southeast Asia, it ranked 4th.

In 2020, Malaysia generated around 3.39 billion US dollars in the tourism sector alone. This corresponds to 0.91 percent of its the gross domestic product and approximately 11 percent of all international tourism receipts in Southeast Asia.

A global comparison can be found here › International tourism

Back to overview: Malaysia

Most popular destinations in Malaysia

No less than 3 cities in Malaysia are among the top 100 most popular destinations worldwide. In 2019, Kuala Lumpur reached the 10th place with 14.07 million tourists. According to Euromonitor, all foreign tourists with at least one overnight stay were counted.

Kuala Lumpur14,072,400#10+4.8%
Johor Bahru7,227,400#35+13.0%
Penang Island3,705,200#64+7.8%

Tourism in MalaysiaOn average, each of the tourists arriving in 2020 spent about 661 US dollars.

Development of the tourism sector in Malaysia from 1995 to 2020

The following chart shows the number of tourist arrivals registered in Malaysia each year. Anyone who spends at least one night in the country but does not live there for more than 12 months is considered a tourist. Insofar as the survey included the purpose of the trip, business trips and other non-tourism travel purposes have already been excluded. The number of people passing through within the same day, and e.g., crew members of ships or flights are also not considered tourists in most countries. If the same person travels in and out more than once within the same year, each visit counts again.

Data in the chart are given in millions of tourists. The red line represents the average of all 11 countries in Southeast Asia.

Tourists per year in Malaysia

Revenues from tourism

In 1995, tourism revenues amounted to 5.04 billion USD, or about 5.7 percent of the gross national product. This corresponded to about 7.47 million tourists at that time and roughly 675 USD per person. Within 25 years, the country's dependence on tourism has increased slightly. Before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, sales were $22.20 billion billion, 6.1 percent of gross national product. Thus, each visitor spent an average of $851 on their vacation in Malaysia.

In 2020, tourist receipts plummeted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Of the $22.20 billion billion (2019), only $3.39 billion billion remained. This is a 85 percent decrease in Malaysia.

Tourism receipts in Malaysia per year

All data for Malaysia in detail

YearNumber of touristsReceipts% of GNPReceipts per tourist
20204.33 m3.39 bn $1.0 %781 $
201926.10 m22.20 bn $6.1 %851 $
201825.83 m21.78 bn $6.1 %843 $
201725.95 m20.31 bn $6.4 %783 $
201626.76 m19.68 bn $6.5 %736 $
201525.72 m19.19 bn $6.4 %746 $
201427.44 m24.47 bn $7.2 %892 $
201325.72 m23.28 bn $7.2 %905 $
201225.03 m21.71 bn $6.9 %867 $
201124.71 m21.34 bn $7.2 %863 $
201024.58 m19.62 bn $7.7 %798 $
200923.65 m17.23 bn $8.5 %729 $
200822.05 m18.55 bn $8.0 %841 $
200720.97 m17.95 bn $9.3 %856 $
200617.55 m12.28 bn $7.5 %700 $
200516.43 m10.39 bn $7.2 %632 $
200415.70 m9.18 bn $7.4 %585 $
200310.58 m6.80 bn $6.2 %643 $
200213.29 m8.08 bn $8.0 %608 $
200112.78 m7.63 bn $8.2 %597 $
200010.22 m5.87 bn $6.3 %575 $
19997.93 m4.40 bn $5.6 %555 $
19985.55 m3.24 bn $4.5 %583 $
19976.21 m4.93 bn $4.9 %793 $
19967.14 m5.73 bn $5.7 %803 $
19957.47 m5.04 bn $5.7 %675 $

Our data on tourist numbers, revenues and expenditures are based on information from the World Tourism Organization. However, to ensure international comparability, the data for some years or countries were manually researched and corrected if they obviously included visitors without overnight stays. In these cases, the data were taken from the official communications of the respective national tourism authorities.

The World Tourism Organization additionally points out that in some countries, the number of tourists is only counted at airports, while in others they are also counted at border crossings or even hotels. A comprehensive and reliable indication is therefore hardly possible in any country.

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