KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is losing tourist dollars to its neighbours by its reluctance to drop visa requirements for Chinese visitors, said Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) president Hamzah Rahmat (pic).
He described the move to grant free visa instead of visa-free travel to Chinese tourists as "a half measure".
Chinese tourists coming to Malaysia have been exempted from paying visa fees from February.
"But free visa means Chinese tourists must go through the hassle of applying for a visa to come here," Hamzah said in an interview.
Malaysia, Hamzah said, must recognise that Chinese tourists now had bigger purchasing power.
"Today, their level of affluence is greater.
"They have high disposable income and are much sought after by other countries, including Europe and the United States," Hamzah added.
Hamzah noted that Indonesia had just announced that it would waive visa requirements for 30 countries including China starting next month to boost its foreign exchange income from tourist dollars.
"Malaysia is in danger of missing the boat," he said.
On Monday, Indonesia's Tourism Minister Arief Yahya said the measure was expected to attract at least one million new tourists to the country along with an additional foreign exchange income of RM4.43bil (S$1.2bil).
This is on the assumption that each tourist spent RM4,433 during their stay.
Hamzah said the Government had cited security reasons in not granting visa-free travel for Chinese tourists.
However, he said such worries were unfounded, pointing out that not many Chinese nationals got arrested for prostitution or other crimes.
China, Hamzah added, did not need tourists from Malaysia as they have a "huge domestic tourism base".
Hamzah said the Government should also improve the visa on arrival (VOA) facility for Chinese tourists which required them to go to another ASEAN country before applying to visit Malaysia for seven days.
"Why are we forcing these potential tourists to go and spend their money first in another country before you allow them to come to Malaysia?" he asked.