Saturday, January 17, 2015

Visa exemption for China tourists will help Sabah tourism recover

KOTA KINABALU: The proposed visa exemption for China tourists, if approved, will obviously enhance and facilitate travel between China and Sabah, said Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun.

Commenting on Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Abdul Aziz’s statement recently that the government would look into the matter, Masidi said Indonesia and Thailand had already implemented it for Chinese tourists.

“Malaysia needs to be a bit proactive and not just reactive so that we remain on par or even one step ahead of our competitors.

“Tourism is a very competitive industry and we need to be constantly evaluating our options to prepare for sudden changes in the rules of the game,” Masidi said.

“This year is Festivals Year@Myfest. The federal government should consider declaring 2015 as visa-free for Chinese travellers to encourage them to choose our country as their preferred holiday destination,” he said.

Masidi also said 2014 was an ‘annus horribilis’ for the Sabah tourism industry.

“Chinese tourist arrivals plunged by 50 per cent due to some incidents beyond our control.

“We should make up for what Sabah has lost last year. Making it easier for the Chinese to travel to Sabah will definitely be a big step forward to enable the Sabah tourism industry to recover in 2015,” he added. 

Chairman of the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) Sabah, Datuk KL Tan, said the proposed visa fee exemption for tourists from China will definitely boost the tourism industry.

“The visa exemption proposal was initiated by Datuk Seri Nazri some two months ago and supported by the various stakeholders. It is frustrating this issue is still being deliberated till today.

“Visa exemption or visa removal will definitely boost the tourism industry. Other countries like Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and Cambodia have adopted this visa exemption and have experienced positive tourist arrivals.

“Business model and consumer trend have changed and last minute bookings is now common. Having visa removal will lure back Chinese tourists,” Tan told The Borneo Post yesterday.

“Malaysia is now experiencing a drop of some 40 per cent of Chinese arrivals. Other sectors that will benefit in visa removal will be the retailing, entertainment, hotel, food and beverages and trade investments.