Tourism Ministry to meet today on how to attract more tourists from China, India after govt grants visa-free entry

Officials from the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry and its respective agencies will meet today to find ways to attract more visitors from China and India following the Malaysian government’s announcement, over the weekend, of granting visa-free entry to visitors from those countries.

Its minister, Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing, in replying to a question by Lim Guan Eng (Bagan-PH) in the Dewan Rakyat this morning, said: “We will have a meeting today at the ministry … on how we can promote aggressively, in getting more tourists from China and India to come to Malaysia.”

Tiong earlier revealed that the nation had recorded 1.12 million tourists from China and 472,000 tourists from India, from January to September, this year. The Malaysian government had initially projected 2.5 million tourist arrivals in 2023.

The visa exemptions for China and India nationals will begin on Dec 1, 2023, and is valid till Dec 31, 2024.

China recently announced visa-free entry for Malaysians and several European countries, starting in December. Thailand, a popular tourist destination in Southeast Asia, has also done away with visa applications for tourists from China and India, among others.

“China and India are important markets. This (granting of visa-free entry) is an important initiative to stimulate the tourism industry. These two nations have huge populations, and this will result in more tourist arrivals.

“The waiver will have a positive impact on the industry, and will indirectly help other industries (connected to tourism) such as retail, hotel, and transportation, among others.”

Tiong highlighted that as the nation is expected to receive more visitors, facilities, especially at tourist destinations, must be in good working order.

“Also, don’t turn everything into a religious issue. We have to focus on things that will contribute to the country, so that we can get more tourists into Malaysia, which will boost our economy,” he added.

Tiong, in a Facebook posting earlier this month, said that the drop in tourist arrivals in Langkawi – a popular island destination among locals and foreigners – should not be politicised.

“Like it or not, the reality is that there have been many complaints from tourists about Langkawi. Firstly, the price of food and accommodation is too high and illogical,” he wrote.

“Secondly, tourists are feeling uneasy and uncomfortable with the spread of extremist religious ideologies. We have to investigate claims to prevent this small extremist group from creating chaos and destroying the tourism industry.”

Kelantan and Terengganu, led by the Islamic party Pas, have imposed a strict dress code in the East Coast states.

“We must allow international tourists to feel that their privacy and freedoms are protected when they step foot in Malaysia,” Tiong posted, in addressing this.