Boosting Malaysia's tourism appeal

By TIN Media | Tourism Malaysia Published 2 months ago on 5 December 2023
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Recently, the government announced that tourists from China and India will be allowed 30-day visa-free entry from Dec 1 as part of its tourism and economic revival efforts.

This has stirred a frantic surge in Internet searches for Malaysia on Chinese travel platforms.

The number of searches on Qunar nearly doubled from the previous week. On the app, there are direct flights available from Chinese cities to Kuala Lumpur, with fares for a Beijing-KL flight in December starting at around 750 yuan (US$104).

The search index for Malaysia on Tongcheng increased by 173 per cent from the previous week, for hotels there by 112 per cent and for flights to KL by 98 per cent.

Searches on Mafengwo were up 166 per cent, the news site Global Times reported.

Before the pandemic, China was Malaysia's third largest source of tourists, with around 3.1 million visiting in 2019, according to Tourism Malaysia.

The number of Chinese visitors to Malaysia jumped 10-fold to 403,121 in the 12 months until the end of May this year.

According to government data, Malaysia recorded 9.16 million tourist arrivals between January and June this year, with 498,540 from China and 283,885 from India compared with 1.5 million arrivals from China and 354,486 from India in the same period of 2019, prior to the pandemic.

The move follows similar measures implemented by Thailand to boost its tourism sector and stimulate its sluggish economy, with Chinese and Indian nationals among those exempted this year.

Vietnamese tourism businesses and officials are also calling for waiving visas for tourists from China and India as the regional tourism race heats up.

Southeast Asia has recently emerged as a favourite destination for Indian tourists. Malaysia is the third Asian country after Sri Lanka and Thailand to allow visa-free travel.

Russia's deputy head of mission to Malaysia, Alexander Zimin, stated that more than 100,000 Russian tourists are expected to visit Malaysia by the end of 2023. Russians rank 16th among Malaysia's foreign visitors.

In 2022, he said, Malaysia recorded approximately 33,000 tourist arrivals from Russia, and in the first nine months of this year, the number increased to 85,000 people.

Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines have been competing to attract tourists from China with changes to entry policies.

It is a well-known fact that India and China are very big markets for Malaysia.

With a simplified entry process, visitors from China, India, Jordan, Turkiye and the Middle East can now experience seamless travel to Malaysia.

According to Mita president Leong Hoon Min, Malaysian tourism associations like Mita (Malaysia Inbound Tourism Association), Mata (Malaysian Tourism Agency Association) and Matta (Malaysia Association of Tour and Travel Agents) must do their part to attract, promote and compete against these countries for a piece of the tourism economic pie.

This, of course, calls for a closer working relationship with the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry. There is simply too little time to waste before other Southeast Asian countries overtake us in the rush for the tourism dollar.

Mita also hopes that our government will consider reallocating financial grants to the travel associations to enable them to market and promote Malaysia more effectively.

Mita thanks the government for upgrading its visa policy in regard to tourist arrivals and will continue its relentless efforts to further promote Malaysia as the No. 1 tourist destination in Southeast Asia.


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