PETALING JAYA - Travel agencies and businesses have lauded the Government's commitment to facilitate visa-free travel between Malaysia and China for tour groups.
Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) president Hamzah Rahmat said the number of Chinese tourists would surge now that the visa requirement was lifted.
"If we make it easier for them to travel here, the number will definitely shoot up very high," he said.
But Hamzah said the Government's decision to only allow visa-free travel for tour groups was a "half-hearted attempt".
"We should show our sincerity and welcome all tourists, even those who travel here independently," he said.
He said it was important to tap this lucrative source of travellers which could help Malaysia achieve its goal of RM68billion (S$24.28 billion) in annual tourist expenditure by 2020.
Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia deputy president Datuk Ter Leong Yap said the visa requirement was a hassle for the business community.
He said travelling was part and parcel of doing business overseas and needing a visa was an obstacle.
A businessman himself, Ter said Malaysia was losing out to neighbouring countries such as Thailand and Singapore because Chinese businessmen enjoyed visa-free travel to those nations.
If the visa requirement could be lifted, there would be a significant rise in trade between Malaysia and China, he said.
"Malaysia is China's largest trading partner in South-East Asia," Ter said, adding that the country could more easily hit its annual billionateral trade target of US$160billion (S$ 216billion) by 2017 if the rise happened.
Malaysia-China Friendship Association president Datuk Abdul Majid Ahmad Khan said he hoped this move by the Government was a prelude to doing away with visas for all Chinese travellers.
"Revenue from tourism is one of the main contributors to our national income," he said.
On Thursday, China's ambassador to Malaysia Dr Huang Huikang promised that the Chinese government would fully co-operate with the country to fulfil the hope of Malaysians being able to travel to China without a visa.