Malaysia received more tourists than any other Asean nation between 2007 and 2011, according to a new Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) report.
Over half came from Singapore, helping drive economic growth and Malaysia’s foreign exchange earnings.
According to the report, three quarters of the tourists to Malaysia were from within Asean, with over 70 per cent of them coming from Singapore, thanks to close family and business ties.
Meanwhile, between 2007 and 2011, tourist arrivals from outside the region grew by 28.6 per cent, bringing an influx of tourist dollars to countries like Vietnam and Singapore.
Intra-regional travel grew even more for some nations, rising by 34.5 per cent.
However, Singaporeans and Malaysians made up nearly two-thirds of intra-Asean tourists in 2011, mostly to each other for short trips.
The increased wealth of countries like Indonesia also increased visitor numbers to Vietnam, as well as newer destinations like Laos.
ICAEW Economic Advisor and Centre for Economics and Business Research(Cebr’s) Executive Chairman, Douglas McWilliams, said:" One success story for the region is tourism, a major industry for South East Asia.
"Tourism is not just a major employer but also provides substantial foreign currency earnings, so the rise is a boost to the region’s economies."
He also said a big boost actually came from intra-regional travel, including business travel, which had grown by over a third in the last four years, suggesting significant economic development.