MALAYSIA can woo up to three million tourists from China, if authorities can relax some of the entry requirements into the country.
China, the world's most populous nation, is becoming the largest source of tourists as Chinese residents made some 150 million overseas trips last year, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation.
China's rise as the world's secondlargest economy has also created a population with deep pockets and the desire to travel abroad. Last year, 2.94 million Chinese nationals visited Malaysia, the third largest after Singapore and Indonesia, according to official government figures.
Malaysian Tourist Guides Council president Jimmy Leong said there is a huge potential to attract more Chinese nationals to the country, but a lot must be done to facilitate their entry.
"If the government is not keen on abolishing visa requirements, then theyshould ensure a reasonably priced visa fee and a hassle-free visa application.
"Malaysia should be aware that among other Asean countries, our visa application fee is the highest — especially now that Thailand and Indonesia are easing away with visas," he told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR).
Malaysia launched its Visit Malaysia Year 2020 campaign with the aim to get 30 million tourist arrivals and RM100 billion in tourist receipts.
Based on the January through May 2019 figures, more than eight million tourists had visited the country, with Chinese nationals amounting to 1.34 million.
There were worries that Malaysia's cancellation of projects related to China's contractors last year would impact tourist arrivals from that nation.
Leong said tourists normally would not link their visit with "policies that govern" a country as their focus would be the purpose of their visit — holiday, or business.
"So, it is false to say tourists are not coming because we went through a government change. I think the more important factors to look at would include flight connectivity, tourism products; security, services and facilities," he said.
Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents president Datuk Tan Kok Liang said Malaysia could achieve the target of three million tourist arrivals from China based on the five months' results and monthly variations last year.
"I think the next thing we should look into is definitely more flexible visa policies and continuing to stay focused on promoting Malaysia as a vacation destination.
"There should be funding for marketing and promotions to secondary cities in China which will help us achieve the target.
"The Chinese government can bar its citizens from visiting a particular country, therefore, it is wise to maintain a good relationship for a win-win situation," he told TMR in a text reply.
Spending by tourists has been a major boost to the country's economy.
"Tourism must equate to the economy and tourists must spend to spur our economy," Leong said, adding that shopping for local products has been the biggest contribution to the economy besides tours fees, accommodation and meals. It is no secret that apart from Asean countries, even countries like Japan and South Korea welcome these Chinese shoppers," he said.
Tan concurred that Chinese tourists have a high spending power.