GEORGE TOWN: Despite concerns over the rising cost of living and the depreciation of the ringgit, many Malaysians are still planning overseas vacations. Based on figures from the recent national Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) Fair in Kuala Lumpur, some 70% of the flight tickets purchased were for overseas travel, according to Matta's honorary secretary-general Nigel Wong. Wong said that the trend to go overseas has been on the upswing in the last five years, even with the current economic concerns. He said regional destinations (within Asean) are also highly popular among Malaysians. His views were echoed by Malaysia Airlines (MAS) Malaysian / Brunei regional head Roslan Ismail, who agreed that Malaysians love to travel overseas. Although he could not specify whether such travel was for work, education or holidays, nonetheless the statistics revealed a keen interest in outbound travel. "And the percentage for outbound travel is growing regardless of whether there is a bargain deal or Matta fairs, Malaysians simply like going overseas." He said this in a press conference to mark MAS' comeback to the Matta fair scene, after a lapse of some five years due to the company's restructuring exercise. MAS will be offering up to 50% discounts on several outbound and domestic destinations as it looks to tap the growing outbound market. The airliner will be participating in this year's Penang Matta Fair, which will be held at the Straits Quay Convention Centre from Friday until Sunday, from 10am to 9pm. Admission is free and potential travellers can check out deals from 27 travel and tour agencies, five state tourism promotion offices, three Tourism Malaysia promotion booths, five hospitality properties including theme park operators and six non-travel related services. Wong hopes that the fair can secure RM20 million in sales compared to last year, when RM17 million worth of deals were snapped up by eager holidaymakers.