PETALING JAYA: Despite worries about the pace of China's economic growth, tourists from the country have been coming to Malaysia in bigger numbers this year, apart from spending more money for their holidays.
Chinese arrivals grew by 7.6% to 1.33 million from January to May compared to 1.24 million in the same period last year, according to Tourism Malaysia's latest figures.
For January to March, Chinese tourists spent a total of RM3.71bil in Malaysia, a 20.6% rise compared to RM3.08bil in the first three months of last year.
Average spending per Chinese tourist also went up by 10.9% to RM4,411.10 for that period compared to RM3,979.10 last year, the figures show.
A Reuters report on July 15 said China's economic growth slowed to 6.2% in the second quarter of this year from a year earlier, the weakest pace in at least 27 years, as demand at home and abroad faltered amid an escalating trade war with the United States.
However, there are no signs yet that this has affected the country's tourist arrivals to Malaysia so far this year.
Tourism Malaysia's figures show uninterrupted growth in the number of Chinese tourist arrivals for the past five years. It rose from 1.61 million in 2014 to 2.94 million last year.
Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) president Datuk Tan Kok Liang said the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry needs to promote Malaysia aggressively in China.
He reiterated MATTA's call for tourists from China and India, who are currently granted a 15-day visa exemption, to be allowed visa-free travel to Malaysia.
"Our growth looks positive but other Asean countries are having better tourist arrivals growth due to flexible visa policies.
"Malaysia must not lose out to neighbouring countries by imposing more stringent requirements on visitors," he said.
Tourism Malaysia's data shows that China is currently Malaysia's third biggest tourism market after Singapore and Indonesia.
A China Daily report on March 13 said nearly 150 million Chinese "citizens holidayed abroad last year, spending up to US$120bil (RM501.48bil).
The report said Malaysia was the sixth most popular destination for Chinese tourists, after Thailand, Japan, Vietnam, Singapore and Indonesia.
Tan said another measure that could help maintain strong Chinese tourist arrivals is getting more shops in Malaysia to accept mobile payment facilities such as Alipay and WeChat Pay which are commonly used in China.
Tan called for more flights from China to Malaysia, especially from second and third-tier source cities such as Changchun, Changsha, Chengdu, Chongqing, Dalian, Fuzhou, Nanjing, Ningbo, Xiamen and Zhuhai, among others.
Malaysia has set a total target of 28 million tourist arrivals this year and 30 million next year.
For the first five months of this year, tourist arrivals to Malaysia from all countries have gone up by 4.8% to 10.9 million compared to 10.4 million last year, according to Tourism Malaysia.
"To reach 28 million, we will need to work harder and hopefully, promotions for Visit Malaysia 2020 would also boost arrivals for the last quarter of this year," said Tan.