Malaysia will need to raise the number of hotel rooms in the country by about 50% to cater for a targeted growth in tourist arrivals to 36 million by 2020, said Deputy Minister of Tourism Datuk Dr James Dawos Mamit.
"We will look at progression (of tourist arrivals). If we have that number of tourists we will need to build that many rooms," he told reporters on Wednesday, Mar 30.
Mamit said as at February, there were 1,610 hotels nationwide ranked from 3-stars to 5-stars earlier with a total 161,117 rooms, in his speech earlier before the launch of the InterContinental Hotel Kuala Lumpur, formerly the Nikko Hotel.
In the city alone, there were 236 hotels with 30,000 rooms, he added.
"We hope to have enough rooms... Probably (increase by) about 50% more hotel rooms, but by when (we) don't know, it depends on investors," he said.
He had noted that the average occupancy rates for hotels across the countries fell by 1.6% to 59.3% in 2010 from a year ago, venturing that tourists are moving towards homestay programmes.
He pointed out that last year, Malacca had recorded the highest number of tourists without offering a figure.
On the natural calamities in Japan, Mamit said there was a drop in Japanese tourists but they accounted for only a small number of tourists, although he did not cite statistics.
His ministry aims to fill the gap left by the Japanese with high-income tourists from China and India, he said.
On Mar 11, Japan was struck by a 9-magnitude earthquake followed by a tsunami had had devastated the island nation's northeast.
Meanwhile, Mamit said there was no shortage of Middle Easterners on Malaysian shores as they seek to escape the unrest in their homelands.
"Let me tell you, Middle Eastern people, they look at Malaysia as a Muslim country. In a country which is not stable, the rich people, what do they do? They leave their country and stay somewhere they will only stay until their country is okay," he explained.
On the abolishment of import duties on goods preferred by locals and tourists which was introduced in the 2011 Budget, he said retailers have until June to sell their goods at prices reflecting the tax break.
The Tourism ministry will refer to the Domestic Trade ministry for further action if retailers fail to comply.
The waiver of the duties, which range from 5% to 30%, will cover 300 items including clothes and handbags.