Sabah hoteliers welcome effect of visa exemption on tourist arrivals

KOTA KINABALU: The government's move to allow visa-free entry from China, India and several other countries will have a positive impact on the tourism industry, say hoteliers.

Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) Sabah/Labuan chapter chairman Hafizan Wong said hotels are more than prepared to meet the expected surge in tourist arrivals, especially from China and India.

He said both nations are considered high-yield markets with a good track record for arrivals.

"With the expected increase, airlines can also consider chartering new flights or reinstating direct flights for connectivity to Malaysia," he said on Tuesday (Nov 28).

However, Hafizan said they will have to wait for the announcement of the actual visa exemption process by the Home Ministry.

ALSO READ: Visitors from China and India given 30 days visa free travel

"Until the specifics of the process are known, it would be challenging to make any reliable predictions.

"However, if the exemption process is executed efficiently, then this initiative could attract a significant flow of tourism dollars from these countries," he said.

Hafizan said the move also comes at a strategic time considering the current exchange rate, which could significantly encourage tourist spending.

Noting that Malaysia recorded a total of 12.17 million tourist arrivals as of August, he said the number was far less than pre-pandemic levels.

In 2019, for instance, he said Malaysia saw a total of 26.1 million tourists, nearly double the current recorded arrivals.

"Malaysia's hospitality industry (is capable of handling) an influx of tourists. Notably, China has historically been a substantial contributor to Malaysia's tourism sector, and many hotels are equipped to welcome visitors from this key market," Hafizan added.

Similarly, tourists from India are also familiar to our hoteliers, he said, adding that in terms of health and safety, hotels have been improving their hygiene practices ever since the pandemic.

"There are some concerns about the recent cases of Covid-19 and avian flu in China, we are confident our industry is prepared to ensure our guests' health and safety," he added.

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