TOURIST arrivals to Malaysia reached a new high of 24.6 million last year, or 3.9 per cent more, the highest ever for the sixth straight year.
Tourism receipts rose by 5.8 per cent to stand at RM56.5 billion for 2010.
In 2009, arrivals were recorded at 23.64 million.
In a statement released in Kuala Lumpur yesterday, Tourism Malaysia said the figures had surpassed the government's target of of 24 million arrivals, set for last year, and RM54 billion in tourism revenue.
India emerged as one of the country's most important source markets, contributing 690,849 tourist arrivals.
This represented a 17.1 per cent increase from 2009 arrivals of 589,838, making India the market with the highest growth.
This year, the Tourism Ministry is targeting 25 million arrivals and RM60 billion in tourism receipts.
It said despite the challenging global economic scenario last year, tourism made its mark as a key revenue generator to the Malaysian economy.
The ministry said on the average, tourists stayed 6.8 nights in 2010, a slight increase of 0.1 night from 6.7 nights in 2009.
The average per capita expenditure of tourists also grew from RM2,257 in 2009 to RM2,299 in 2010.
Among the top 10 tourist generating markets were Singapore with 13 million arrivals, Indonesia with 2.5 million, followed by Thailand with 1.45 million, China with 1.13 million and Brunei with 1.12 million.
In terms of growth, the top five markets were India at 17.1 per cent, South Korea at 16.2 per cent, the United Arab Emirates at 16 per cent, Iran at 16 per cent and Cambodia at 12.7 per cent.
In efforts to boost tourist arrivals, Tourism Deputy Minister Datuk Dr James Dawos Mamit will lead a delegation on a sales mission to India and Bangladesh until March 1.
The delegation will visit Pune and New Delhi in India and Dhaka in Bangladesh.
The sales mission aims to strengthen Malaysia's standing as a premier travel destination and increase tourist arrivals from the South Asian market.
It will also provide the country's tourism industry players the opportunity to develop and strengthen cooperation with their Indian and Bangladeshi counterparts.
Malaysia is recognised globally as a leading tourism destination and was listed as one of the top 10 countries for "Best in Travel 2010" and one of the "Best-value Destination for 2010" by the Lonely Planet.