A new visa scheme for Indian tourists, aimed at increasing their numbers, will be introduced on April 1.
Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz said the new scheme would see Indian tourists only paying US$20 (RM88.50) for a 15-day visit.
Approval, he said, would be within 48 hours.
Nazri said the announcement would be made during the Prime Minister’s official trip to India next month, quipping that it was not an April’s Fool joke.
Earlier, he blamed the fees charged for the e-visa application for Indian tourists as one of the factors leading to the drop in visitors.
He said the company managing the e-visa applications charged an additional RM270 per application apart from the RM108 payable to the Malaysian and Indian governments.
“Countries such as Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia are visa-free for Indian tourists.
“If I were an Indian tourist, why would I want to visit Malaysia as I have to pay RM370 even before visiting the country,” he added.
He said the reduction in flights by Malaysia Airlines (MAS) to India was also one of the reasons for the drop in the number of Indian tourists to the country.
He said this was among the challenges in trying to attract more Indian tourists here.
“MAS has not made arrangements to fly on specific routes and has actually cut the number of flights.
“This is a great challenge for me personally,” he said in reply to V. Sivakumar (DAP-Batu Gajah).
At present, Nazri said he was unsure if MAS still had daily or twice daily flights to destinations such as New Delhi, Chennai and Mumbai.
“In contrast, Thai Airways has regular flights to India and the country attracts between 1.2 million and 1.3 million Indian tourists,” he said.
Nazri said between 2012 and 2015, there were some 2.83 million Indian tourists.
At the same time, some 976,000 Malaysian tourists visited India.
However, he said the number of Indian tourists dropped from 722,141 in 2015 to 638,578 last year.
He further added that he was currently in discussion with AirAsia and Malindo Air to increase flights to India.
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