Direct flight boost to hit target of Chinese tourists


PUTRAJAYA: With the introduction of direct flights between Malaysia and various Chinese cities, the number of Chinese tourist arrivals is expected to reach the targeted seven million this year, says the Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister.

Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing (pic) said with the increase in direct flights, the total number of flights between the two countries was expected to surpass the peak level in 2019.

He added that after negotiations with several airlines, his ministry plans to launch a round-trip flight from Xi’an to Kuala Lumpur in March and a chartered flight from Urumqi to KL in May, or at the latest, in July.

He said increasing flight routes is one of the strategies to hit the targeted seven million Chinese tourists to Malaysia this year.

“If the connecting flights go smoothly, more flights from various Chinese cities to Malaysia will be introduced this year, potentially surpassing the number of flights in 2019,” he said in an interview.

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China has always been a key market for Malaysia’s tourism, and the ministry is focusing on expanding opportunities for the industry here, Tiong said.

The ministry plans to promote and support various tourism packages offered by local businesses, including durian carnivals, fishing tours, golf and island tours, and medical tourism to attract tourists from around the world, he added.

“During the durian season, the ministry hopes durian orchard owners can promote the taste of fresh Musang King durians, allowing tourists to enjoy the freshest durians at the orchards.

“In Sabah and Sarawak, there are still many undiscovered islands and beautiful sea shores. We can promote fishing tours.

“At the same time, medical tourism is also a key tourism product that we are actively promoting, allowing foreigners to come to Malaysia for medical check-ups while also enjoying a vacation,” he said.

He said another aspect that the ministry was actively exploring is the Muslim tourism market, adding that Deputy Minister Khairul Firdaus Akbar Khan was spearheading the development of Muslim-friendly tourism packages and fostering cultural exchanges between Malaysian and Chinese-Muslim tourists.

“Malaysia is a Muslim-friendly country, and the ministry is committed to creating a regional ‘Umrah Hub’ in Malaysia. Additionally, a chartered flight from Urumqi to KL is scheduled to be launched in May or, at the latest, July this year,” said Tiong.

He also expressed hope that through this initiative, the ministry would be able to attract 1.5 million Muslim tourists from China this year.

Tiong said there was an increase in tourist arrivals from China and India following the introduction of a 30-day visa-free entry to Malaysia last December.

Last November, Malaysia welcomed 124,000 visitors from China and 52,000 from India. However, these numbers rose significantly in December last year, with 168,000 Chinese tourists and 84,000 Indian tourists arriving, indicating month-on-month growth of 35.1% and 60.9%, respectively.

He said Malaysia aims to attract 30 million tourists this year, having successfully reached its target of 26 million tourist arrivals last year.

In response to inquiries about whether the Malaysian government is pushing for a permanent mutual visa waiver for citizens of both Malaysia and China, Tiong said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is actively researching and engaging in discussions on this matter with Chinese officials.

“I am optimistic that Malaysia can achieve the same mutual visa waiver status, especially considering that Thailand and Singapore have successfully negotiated such agreements with China,” he added.

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