BESIDES China, the arrival of tourists from Japan, Australia and Singapore has dropped between January and March this year compared to the same period in 2014.
Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz said the number of Chinese tourists dropped from 520,466 people in 2014 to 379,265 people this year.
“Tourists from Japan also decrease from 149,859 to 125,339, and from 156,662 to 121,037 for those coming from Australia. Tourists coming from Singapore drop from 3,548,301 to 3,241,651,” he told Dewan Rakyat.
Other countries which had also seen a corresponding drop in the number of tourist arrivals were Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines.
However, tourists from Brunei and India had increased.
Nazri said Malaysia recorded 6.5 million tourists arrivals between January and March this year compared to 7.1 million previously, a 8.6% decline in numbers.
To a question from Datuk Mahfuz Omar (PAS-Pokok Sena), he said there were several factors affecting arrivals from China, including visa problems, the ongoing search for MH370 as well as MAS flight connections in certain countries.
“There is still no closure to the MH370 tragedy. We also must change the perception that tourists from China are here for vice activities.
“At times, the decision made by MAS to shut down certain routes is not in line with the Government’s efforts to promote tourism. Even as we promote our country, no direct flights to Malaysia is a problem,” he said.
The Government, added Nazri, was still in the process of relaxing visa requirements for travellers from China, adding that the free visa would be for a trial period of one year.
“If things proceed smoothly, we will continue,” he said.
Later, in his winding-up on debate on the 11th Malaysia Plan, Nazri said the recent drastic drop of the ringgit would attract more international travellers to Malaysia.
“While people complain about the drastic drop of ringgit, I am the happiest person,” he said, adding that travellers could stretch their money and spend more with the lower value.