A million Chinese expected - Tourism players anticipate influx as China scraps curbs

Holiday snaps: Chinese tourists taking selfies in Kuala Lumpur in this file picture, but currently high airfares may reduce the number of visitors from China. — AZHAR MAHFOF/The Star

PETALING JAYA: The impending opening up of China will benefit the Malaysian tourism industry, says the Malaysia Inbound Tourism Association (Mita).

Its president Uzaidi Udanis said a million Chinese tourists are expected to come to Malaysia in 2023.

“Based on Tourism Malaysia data, around three million Chinese tourists arrived in 2019, so we expect a million Chinese tourists to visit Malaysia next year,” he said yesterday.

Uzaidi said the expected figure was smaller because of some unresolved problems.

“High airfares are one of the main concerns for us. Of course, we won’t compromise on the country’s security, but we urge the government to ease visa restrictions for tourists, such as visa on arrival,” he said.

Uzaidi said the current frequency of flights between Malaysia and China is still low, at only 40% of its pre-pandemic frequency in December compared to 2019.

“We want tourists to come, and we also want to control the pandemic.

“I believe our government will take precautionary steps, like health screening, self-tests and MySejahtera reports at points of entry.

“We have to live with the (Covid-19) virus, and a majority of Malaysians have received their booster doses,” he said.

According to one of China’s largest online travel agencies, a one-way flight from Kuala Lumpur to Shanghai on Chinese New Year’s Eve (Jan 21) costs RM4,011.

Malaysian Chinese Tourism Association (MCTA) president Paul Paw said, compared to pre-Covid-19, the price of flight tickets had increased two to three-fold.

For example, from Malaysia to Guangzhou, Xiamen and Shanghai, a return flight ticket may cost RM4,000 to RM5,000, whereas from China to Kuala Lumpur, the prices are higher with return fares ranging from RM10,000 to RM12,000. He explained that this was because of the high demand from China.

However, he believes there is no immediate surge of Chinese tourists expected to come to Malaysia after restrictions ease in China. Malaysians will take a few months to observe the China pandemic situation.

Tong Yan Travel & Tours Sdn Bhd managing director Albert Tan agreed that it is hard for local travel agents to promote China tour packages, with China’s border policy still unclear.

“We know China has lifted the quarantine requirement for inbound travellers, but it didn’t announce the travel visa issue to Malaysians,” he said.

Asked about the rising number of Covid-19 cases in China, Tan believes the Malaysian government will strengthen the country’s Covid-19 management.

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