MALAYSIA is confident about pulling in more than three million Chinese tourists this year following promotional efforts and the relaxing of visa rules.
Tourism and Culture Minister Nazri Aziz said that there had been a noteworthy increase of inbound Chinese tourists in the first three months of the year compared to the same period last year.
Two new visa schemes were introduced in March last year to promote the flow of Chinese tourists.
Electronic Travel Registration & Information (Entri) is designed for tourists visiting Malaysia for a period of not more than 15 days without the need of a tourist visa, while eVisa is for those traveling between 15 to 30 days.
Meanwhile, HARTAR, a digital platform launched by the Ministry to promote tourism, provides information such as tour packages, medical tourism materials, ticketing services for popular sites, and public transport information.
While Malaysia’s capital of Kuala Lumpur is popular, Nazri noted that the east Malaysian state of Sabah is especially attractive to the Chinese, owing to its “blue skies, beaches, warm seas, food, people, culture, and accessibility”.
“It’s also located within a short distance from say, Hong Kong, which is three-and-a-half hours away by flight. It takes about the same to drive up to Penang from the Klang Valley,” he said.
On top of that, the pungent durian – Malaysia’s King of Fruits – is easily accessible. The Chinese are known to be fans of durian – notably the premium Musang King variety – which is oftentimes difficult to locate in China.
“Exporting durian there is also very difficult, so the tourists prefer coming here,” Nazri said.
He added that the Ministry is planning to set up durian stalls along Jalan Ampang, a busy street in Kuala Lumpur surrounded by hotels and tourist sites.
Malaysia predicts to welcome up to four million Chinese tourists next year and eight million by 2020.
Overall, Chinese tourists make up the fastest-growing tourist group in the Asean region, and is the third-largest tourist group in Malaysia.