'Free visa may not be good enough'

'Free visa may not be good enough'

PETALING JAYA - Tourism groups are concerned that the visa fee waiver will not be as impactful as a visa-free move to lure tourists from China as the fee is "negligible".

The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) said the amount was only 80 yuan (S$17) and would not make a difference to most tourists.

"This move will not have much impact as the issue for travellers is not the fee, it is the convenience. Getting a visa is inconvenient as they have to travel very far to the embassy to get one if they do not live in Beijing," said MATTA president Hamzah Rahmat (pic).

"Tourists will usually use an agent to settle the visa for them and that's where the expense is - paying the middleman. If we truly want that market, we must remove the need for a visa altogether," he added.

He also said that the possibility of reciprocation from China was not an incentive, adding: "They have the numbers, we need them to come here more."

The waiving of visa fee for tourists from China was announced by the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak yesterday as part of strategies to strengthen the economic resilience by intensifying the tourism industry.

Asia Overland Services Tours and Travel managing director Anthony Wong said the entire process had to be simple.

"Eighty yuan is a small amount. If we want more tourists, we have to make sure it's not complicated for them to come here. For example, Japan now issues all visas on arrival and there are so many tourists going in."

This was echoed by the Federation of Chinese Associations Malaysia's Economic Studies Committee chairman Kerk Loong Sing.

"We do not just want the numbers, we also want an increase in tourist receipts from Chinese travellers," he said.

Small and Medium Enterprises Association of Malaysia president Teh Kee Sin said the move may result in Malaysia losing out to neighbouring countries who had already removed the visa requirement.

Currently, China is the third biggest source of tourists for Malaysia after Singapore and Indonesia. Overall, some 98.19 million Chinese spent their holidays overseas, with Malaysia ranked 10th.

Indonesia, which has waived visa requirements for China, Australia, Japan, South Korea and Russia since January, is said to be expecting an additional 450,000 foreign tourists this year and an extra RM1.9bil (S$703 mil)  in foreign exchange as a result of its visa-free policy.

Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz said the waiver of visa fee for Chinese tourists should be implemented as soon as possible.

Nazri said the decision was not too difficult or technical to implement, adding: "We need to act fast to attract as many tourists from China as possible especially with the Chinese New Year celebrations just around the corner."

Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the visa fee-free move could be implemented before the Chinese New Year celebrations. The exact date would be decided at the Cabinet meeting today.

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