Travel agencies confident number of Chinese travellers will increase gradually

SHANGHAI - Travel agencies are optimistic that tourist arrivals from China, which was badly affected by the MH370 tragedy, will pick up next year.

Malaysian participants at the China International Travel Mart (CITM) 2014 at the Shanghai New International Expo Centre here believed the figures would increase gradually.

Asia Delight Tours and Travel Sdn Bhd director Sophia Koh Geok Hong said her company had experienced a 60 per cent drop in business from the Chinese market.

"However, we are beginning to see a recovery of FIT (free, independent travellers) from China this month.

"With the strong friendship between the governments of Malaysia and China, I am sure the numbers will go up again," she said, adding that travel agents were trying their best to promote Malaysia to their overseas partners and customers.

To address the drop in sale from the Chinese market, Mayflower Acme Tours Sdn Bhd is rolling out a new package to capture a niche market.

Fiona Pang, its international sales manager for Greater China, said the company was promoting self-drive tours for the first time at CITM.

"We have seen an interest among the Chinese to embark on such travels overseas, so we are introducing this tour with our fleet of 3,000 vehicles," she said.

The Malaysian pavilion at CITM, the largest professional travel mart in Asia, housed 22 travel agencies, hotels, state tourism boards and agencies.

Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz said the ministry was concentrating its promotional efforts in the second-tier cities in China following the MH370 incident, instead of Beijing and Shanghai.

"We believe things are getting better, especially after Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak's visit to China in May (during the 40th anniversary of bilateral ties between both countries), when the Chinese government promised to make efforts to ensure that the Chinese tourists would continue to visit Malaysia," Nazri said.

Meanwhile, DFF Tour and Travel director Steve Er welcomed the decision to allow the Visa On Arrival (VOA) facility for Indian and Chinese tourists at the Sultan Abu Bakar Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) Complex at the Second Link in Tuas, Johor, which began on Nov 1.

His company organises fruit farm tours in Desaru.

"The approval will definitely help to promote tourism as it provides convenience for tourists visiting Singapore to enter Malaysia. It would take them five working days to pro-cess the visa otherwise," he said.