PETALING JAYA: With tourists from China increasing by 40% in conjunction with its Golden Week holiday, it is all the more proper to implement visa-free travel for them to boost Malaysia’s tourism, say industry players.The Golden Week holiday coincides with the Mid-Autumn Festival today and forms an eight-day period until Oct 6 when more Chinese nationals are expected to travel overseas.
Malaysian Chinese Tourism Association president Paul Paw said that China’s Golden Week holiday had become a catalyst for promoting travel, boosting tourism and stimulating consumption.“While we may miss out on this Golden Week, let’s move on and do the necessary so that we can still welcome more tourists during the year-end travelling season. The sooner we can provide visa-free convenience for them, the better,” he said when contacted.Paw was responding to Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing’s announcement that a policy related to visa-free travel for Chinese tourists would be made soon.
He said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had directed the Home Ministry to draft a report with a decision expected within a week or two.
Tiong was quoted by Sin Chew Daily that Anwar mentioned this during his recent trip to the China-Asean Expo in Nanning, China, saying it would be best if both countries could offer visa-free arrivals for their tourists.
Other than China, Tiong said Anwar also spoke about offering similar travelling conveniences to tourists from India.
While anticipating more Chinese tourist arrivals, Paw agreed that a bilateral travel convenience was the best way forward.
“I believe Beijing will also be open to providing the same to our citizens once Malaysia has taken the first step,” he said.
According to information from association members and tour operators, Paw said Chinese tourist arrivals increased by 40% during the Golden Week holiday.
“Imagine the figure we can achieve with visa-free arrival. It’s going to be even greater where all layers of tourism players can benefit from,” he said.
Besides China, Paw also called on the government to offer visa-free arrival for travellers from India.
“These are the most populated countries in the world. Why limit them from coming to Malaysia when we want to attract more tourists? By default, a visa-free 30-day social visit stay is sufficient,” he said, adding that government policies, immigration services and tourism products and services should all be improved to leave an impression among visitors.
Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) president Nigel Wong concurred that visa-free facility had increased tourist arrivals to a particular destination.
“A policy with China and India will help make Malaysia more accessible and friendly to stir more interest from these markets,” he said.
Wong also said Malaysia, being a very tourist-friendly destination, should take immediate measure to entice these tourists.
“A visa-free policy will have an almost immediate effect towards this end. We should not be pre-empting visitors’ intentions prior to entry, which will inevitably turn genuine tourists away and create a negative impression of Malaysia.
“If there are concerns, visa-free policies can be implemented on a periodical basis for a pre-determined duration,” he said.
Earlier this month, Thailand, a popular destination for Chinese residents, said the country would waive visa requirements for Chinese travellers for five months, effective Sept 25.
Following the announcement, searches for flight tickets to Thailand and its hotels surged on various online travel platforms immediately.