Haze, the 13th General Elections and the delay in the completion of KLIA2 were three major reasons why Malaysia was forced to lower its 2013 targets of tourist arrivals.

Tourism Malaysia director-general Datuk Mirza Mohammad Taiyab shared that the government had to change the initial target of 26.8 million to 26 million arrivals last year.

“We still expect to hit 26 million (tourist arrivals) this year. It was 26.8 million in our previous forecast but we had to revise it,” Mirza told local and international media at a briefing during the ASEAN Tourism Forum 2014.

Firstly, Mirza said that in their initial forecast had factored in the opening of KLIA2, which was expected “sometime the middle of last year”, but "the delay affected the overall growth of tourism activity.”

“Secondly, we had the haze in the middle of the year,” he said, adding that the smog crisis last year was much longer and had reached alarming levels.

Mirza said that a lot of visitors delayed their trip or actually postponed it entirely and the country saw a dip in arrivals in that two months.

“These were national calamity that we could not overcome,” said Mirza.

Mirza also said that 2013 was an election year, explaining that there was a lot of “domestic movement” that even displaced the capacity needed for international guests.

The latest figures for tourism arrivals, between Jan to Sept 2013, stand at 18.76 million, which is a 3.3% growth from 2012.

For 2014, which is Visit Malaysia Year, the government targets to receive 28 million tourists, who are expected to spend some RM76billion in the country.