MALAYSIA is inviting Singaporeans and other foreigners born on Aug 31, 1957, to enjoy a free holiday in the country next year to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its independence, or Merdeka Day.
"You are celebrating your birthday, we are celebrating ours. Let's do it together," says Ms Rafidah Idris, the director of the Tourism Malaysia office here.
Singaporeans who want to take up the invitation, which will be sponsored by Tourism Malaysia, can contact its office here. Trips may be customised to suit the tastes and preferences of the individuals.
To mark its golden anniversary, the country has also designated next year, Visit Malaysia Year 2007 (VMY 2007).
There will be more than 100 events showcasing Malaysia's ethnic and cultural diversity, its food, tourist attractions and warm hospitality. A highlight in Kuala Lumpur will be the Merdeka Day parade.
The aim of VMY 2007 is to attract 20.1 million tourist arrivals. More than half of them - 10 million, are expected to come from Singapore, which is the biggest contributor of tourists to Malaysia.
Last year, the 9.6 million tourists from Singapore who visit Malaysia made up 58.6 per cent of the total figure of 16.4 million tourists. They spent RM1.7 billion (S$736 million). In the first quarter of this year, the 2.4 million tourists from Singapore made up 55.2 per cent of the 4.3 million tourists to Malaysia.
In June this year, Tourism Malaysia and its partners in the industry offered 50 pre-2007 holiday packages for Singaporeans and permanent residents living here.
These packages are available through Singapore travel agents. They offer, among other things, attractions in Sabah and Sarawak.
They are targeted mainly at people who have been to Malaysia to "rediscover the country".
Tourism Malaysia has also put up a big billboard across Shaw Tower on Beach Road selling Malaysia as a holiday destination closest to Singapore.
The advertisement is visible from the nearby Suntec Singapore - the main venue of the annual meetings next month of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, which expect some 16,000 visitors.
There is a fleet of 100 Comfort taxis with the Visit Malaysia Year 2007 livery and Hibiscus logo plying the roads here.
Ms Rafidah's office will discuss with travel agents, hotels and other partners incentives such as price discounts and the added value which can be offered to draw more Singaporeans to go to Malaysia next year.
She says that the Ministry of Tourism has invested RM30 million to facilitate training and further improve the present standard of the country's service and support personnel.
"This clearly demonstrates our commitment in making Malaysia a preferred tourist destination," she adds.
She welcomes Singaporeans to visit Malaysia again this year, and extends a special invitation to them to go next year and "join us in celebrating our 50th National Day celebrations.
"There is no better way to celebrate this special occasion than to be with our closest neighbour," she says.
Highlights of Visit Malaysia Year 2007
Jan 2: Floral parade of colourful floats and cultural performances in Kuala Lumpur.
Mar 16 - 18: Formula 1 Grand Prix at Sepang international circuit in Selangor.
Jul 7:Colours and flavours of Malaysia parade at Merdeka Square in Kuala Lumpur. This will kick off one month of nation-wide food festivals and cultural exhibitions.
Jul 13 - 15: Musicians perform at a festival celebrating the fusion of rain forest, cultural and ethnic music. Venue: Cultural Village at Damai in Sarawak.
Jul 21 - Sep 2: Mega sale carnival. Malaysia's shopping malls and department stores offer knock-down prices for a wide range of merchandise.
Aug 31: Merdeka Day parade in Kuala Lumpur.