PETALING JAYA: Countries around the world are gearing up to attract more Chinese tourists, with many governments relaxing visa restrictions for them.
Singapore-based travel website Wego said many, including Indonesia, Thailand and the United States, were making it easier for Chinese travellers to visit.
“Last year, a number of countries announced a lifting of complex visa regulations, which resulted in their destinations becoming a great deal more attractive to the Chinese traveller,” said Wego market development manager (North Asia) James Huang in a statement.
He added that Chinese tourists were attracted by several points – easier visa processes, direct flights, dedicated tours with Mandarin-speaking guides, more tax refunds, discounts and payment gateways, and specific marketing campaigns in China.
Huang said Chinese outbound tourists – who accounted for an overall spending of US$140bil (about RM500bil) last year – were expected to exceed 100 million people this year.
He said Indonesia recently included China in a list of five countries not required to purchase visas-on-arrival, adding that Bali was popular among these tourists.
He added that last November, the United States and China entered into reciprocal visa extension agreements for short-term business and tourist travel between them.
Singapore and South Korea, he said, had simplified the visa process for Chinese tourists, and were expected to become lead destinations this coming Chinese New Year.
Malaysia, too, has made an effort to woo more Chinese tourists.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced a visa fee waiver for tourists from, among others, China.
Travel agents here and in China said, however, that the fee waiver was not enough, adding that visa fee was merely 80 yuan (RM47) and that the 120 yuan (RM71) processing fee still applied.
The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) said the fee removal did not make a difference, and called for a removal of the visa altogether.
Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz had said that Chinese tourist arrivals picked up in October 2014, after a drastic drop following the MH370 and MH17 air tragedies.
He said the Government needed to act fast given that Chinese New Year would be here soon.
China is currently Malaysia’s third biggest source of tourists after Singapore and Indonesia.
Malaysia is ranked 10th among holiday destinations favoured by Chinese nationals.