BEIJING: The eVisa and visa waiver programmes for Chinese tourists have succeeded in attracting more visitors from China.
Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi revealed that a total of 2.2 million entry passes – including visas and a special travel note known as Electronic Travel Registration and Information (Entri) – was issued for the whole of last year, compared with 1.2 million visas in 2015.
The issuance of the travel documents increased by 74% from March to December last year, compared with the corresponding period of the previous year, he added.
“Although there was a sharp increase, we are still making efforts to further promote Malaysia in China,” he said here yesterday.
Dr Ahmad Zahid, who is also Home Minister, is on a six-day working visit to China at the invitation of China’s State Councillor and Public Security Minister Guo Shengkun.
He had a closed-door meeting with Guo on Tuesday night, and tourist arrivals and security matters related to the visa waiver programme were among the topics discussed.
The visa waiver scheme introduced in March last year allows tourists from China to stay in Malaysia for a maximum of 15 days with Entri, in place of a tourist visa.
A visa is still required for those travelling to Malaysia for a period of between 15 and 30 days and can be applied for online.
Dr Ahmad Zahid said Malaysia could not offer visa exemption privilege to the Chinese as the Chinese Government was opposed to this.
“They, too, want to know who visits Malaysia, as part of their security measures,” he added.
Dr Ahmad Zahid said about 1.7 million Chinese tourists, including those residing outside of China, visited Malaysia in 2015 and spent more than RM5.7bil during their stay.
“This is one big contribution to the country’s economy,” he said, adding that most of the tourists came in families.
He said although there were cases of overstaying, the number was minimal and the authorities would keep a close eye on the issue to ensure that security was not jeopardised.
Dr Ahmad Zahid noted that a total of 64 million Chinese nationals went abroad for holidays yearly.
In view of this, he said the Tourism and Culture Ministry would work closely with other related agencies, wholesalers and retailers to beef up promotions during the three golden holiday periods in China – Lunar New Year, summer and year-end holidays – to attract more of them to Malaysia.
He said plans to increase the number of flights to Malaysia from major China cities had been arranged for the purpose.
Dr Ahmad Zahid will also meet with other officials in Beijing and Kunming to exchange views on issues related to security, crime and prison affairs.
Meanwhile, in Petaling Jaya, Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) vice-president (inbound) Datuk Tan Kok Liang said Malaysia was expecting 15% to 20% more tourists from China during the Chinese New Year period.
He cited an increase in chartered and direct flights between China and Malaysia as the main factor that helped to boost tourist arrivals from China.
“We can expect a rise not only during the festive season but also throughout the year,” he said.
Tan added that while the visa waiver programme had made Malaysia more attractive, the country’s tropical beaches and other attractions have always appealed to Chinese tourists.
“Malaysia also shares historical ties and similarities in food, language and culture with China.”