SEPANG - The tourism ties between Malaysia and China are on the road to recovery as charter air travel between the Chinese city of Wuhan and Kuala Lumpur takes off.
Chinese tourist arrivals to Malaysia dipped by 19.5 per cent in April compared with the same month last year, following the Flight MH370 incident, but the charter flights connecting Wuhan and Malaysia are expected to yield approximately RM76.2million (S$30million) in tourist receipts over a year.
The earnings are expected to come from the 26,386 tourist arrivals using the projected 158 charter flights between now and June 29.
"The charter flight programme is a National Key Economic Area (NKEA) initiative, where we have spent almost RM1million (S$390,000) to bring in the flights, but a good rate of returns will be generated in tourist receipts.
"China is the world's largest market and the country has produced almost 90 million tourists for the world last year," Tourism Malaysia chairman Tan Sri Dr Ng Yen Yen said after welcoming 143 Chinese tourists at the KL International Airport early yesterday.
The tourists arrived in Malaysia via a chartered flight from Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, which has a population of 9.8 million people.
The flights, introduced under a charter agreement between Tourism Malaysia and Hubei Wanda New Airlines Travel Services, and will run three times weekly.
Dr Ng said more efforts would be rolled out to bring in tourists from "second-tier" cities in China, such as Chengdu, Changsha, Anhui and Fuzhou.
"Malaysia temporarily ceased (tourism) advertising and operations in China (after the MH370 incident) but during that time, we still maintained close contacts with our Chinese partners.
"Our partners there have been extremely supportive of our efforts, then and now, and the turning point came with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak's visit to China in May which further strengthened government and tourism relations between the two countries.
"We are very confident that the (Chinese) market will return to Malaysia," said Dr Ng.