Malaysia has again extended the temporary 15-day visa exemption for tourists from China and India to the end of 2019.
Agents handling these markets welcomed the continuation of the exemption, most recently planned to cease on December 31, 2018, saying it would help Malaysia compete better with Thailand and Indonesia – the former offers visa on arrival while the latter offers visa exemption to Chinese and Indian tourists.
K Thangavelu, president of the Malaysian Indian Tour & Travel Association (MITTA) as well as Grandlotus Travel Agencies managing director, said: “There is plenty of direct air connectivity from China and India to Malaysia. Airfares are also very competitive on these routes.
“The continuation of the 15-day visa exemption, which has been extended on a year-to-year basis from October 1, 2015 for Chinese tourists, and from April 1, 2017 for Indian tourists, is a good move by the new government because the hassle of getting a visa has always been a hindrance to travel. If the Malaysian government doesn’t offer this, we may lose both these big markets to neighbouring Indonesia and Thailand.”
Uzaidi Udanis, president, Malaysian Inbound Tourism Association, said the extension of the visa exemption was timely in view of the upcoming Chinese New Year period, which is also a peak travel period for Chinese tourists.
He said: “I was in Hunan recently and our trade counterparts there were concerned whether the exemption would be continued. It is good that the government is announcing this (ahead of the peak season) as this is a selling point for Chinese tourists who have yet to decide on which medium-haul destination to choose.
“On our part, we are helping boost awareness on Malaysia in China by organising the Malaysia-China Spring Festival Carnival in Kuala Lumpur on February 16 to showcase the Malaysian Chinese culture and heritage. Hunan TV will broadcast this event to their viewers in China. We hope this activity will also help to create more interest in Malaysia and in turn, encourage more Chinese tourists to Malaysia.”
Bobby Eng, general manager, Sunflower Holidays, shared that the extension of the visa exemption will help him sell Malaysia to corporate incentive or meeting planners.
“In the past, the process of obtaining a visa took about five working days. It was a hassle especially for organisers who had to coordinate with participants from different parts of the country. Now individuals planning to travel to Malaysia can register online for the 15-day visa exemption – the approval is fast and the system is user friendly,” Eng remarked.