Waive fees to make visiting Malaysia more attractive

Ready for a whirl: Wee promoting the ‘Dekat Je’ tourism campaign during its launch in Kuala Lumpur.

PETALING JAYA: The Government should look into waiving entrance and visa fees to attract more tourists, says newly-appointed Tourism Malaysia chairman Wee Choo Keong.

"At the moment, we are trying to work with Government agencies, especially the Immigration Depart­ment to look into visa exemption for countries whose citizens frequently visit Malaysia.

Even if there is a need for a visa, it should be easily attainable.

"Travel facilitation needs to be worked out in order to make travel much easier than what it is now, and this includes waiving all fees including visa and service charge, especially for Chinese travellers who make up a large portion of our tourist population," he said, adding that it would also help the "no closure" of the MH370 disaster.

He said it cannot be business as usual for Tourism Malaysia as efforts have to be stepped up to woo quality tourists who can spend money.

He said tourists from China were among those who spent the most when they visited Malaysia as they had a habit of buying large numbers of souvenirs.

"The average per person expen­diture by the Chinese in the first quarter of 2015 is RM3,401 (S$1,200). This is a lot of money for one person," he said.

"Following the disaster, most of them have gone to other countries. So we need to do everything in our power to woo them back to Malaysia."

Wee, who took over from Tan Sri Dr Ng Yen Yen, said Tourism Malaysia was also working with overseas tour operators and airlines such as Etihad, AirAsia and Malaysia Airlines on joint promotions in other countries.

"It is also important for MAS not to cut down on their destinations as people will always look forward to going to places on a direct flight, instead of being subjected to multiple transits.

"Take the Frankfurt line for example, the termination of that service will now affect our tourist income from Germany, and although they have the option of travelling here through Amsterdam, it is still not going to be as convenient as a direct flight," he said, adding that people did not want to deal with such hassle when travelling.

Referring to a recent budget cut of up to 40 per cent in the tourism industry, Wee pleaded to the Government to not impose budget cuts as it was the lifeline of the nation.

"Especially in difficult times, the Government should double the budget for tourism, as the tourism sector was a strong revenue earner for Malaysia," he said.