EDITORIAL: Malaysian tourism policy needs more breakthrough

KUALA LUMPUR (Sin Chew Daily/ANN) - The Tourism Ministry and Home Ministry should hear from tour operators and work with them to promote Malaysia together. 

The Tourism Ministry hopes to implement visa on arrival (VOA) for tourists from China and India this year to attract more tourists as Malaysia is having Visit Malaysia Year next year to boost its tourism industry. It is learned that the implementation of VOA will increase tourism revenue by at least 30%.

According to information received by Sin Chew Daily, VOA is only applicable for tourists from China and India who enter Malaysia through a third country instead of a direct flight. The period of VOA is also extended from seven to 14 days with increase in number of ports of entry. Re-application of VOA is reduced to one month instead of three months.

The implementation of VOA for Indian and Chinese tourists will definitely help to boost tourism sector but the measure will still be insufficient. It is not a major breakthrough in policy which disappoints many tour operators. In fact if the government is keen to promote tourism industry to rake in a higher revenue, it needs to be more open and bold in policy. 

When the Barisan Nasional government implemented e-visa in 2016, the number of tourists from India and China spiked instantly due the measure and this motivated the tour operators. By implementing e-visa with conditions for Chinese and Indian tourists, the number of tourists recorded a sharp increase. If VOA can be implemented for Chinese and Indian tourists to be exempted from applying visa, the impact is believed to be greater. 

As collaboration between Malaysia and China develops further, the number of Chinese nationals visiting Malaysia for business and leisure has also increased. More direct flights from China are flying to popular travel destinations such as Langkawi and Sabah. The number of Indians having vacation in overseas has also increased.  Bilateral trade and people to people interaction between India and Malaysia are also close. If the government does not seize the opportunity to open its doors, it will miss the boat and lose two major markets – India and China.  

The government can’t afford to ignore the stiff competition in tourism industry. Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and even Brunei are aggressively promoting tourism business. They are offering more visa facilities for Chinese national tourists. The growth rate in tourism industry of Thailand, Singapore and Philippines have exceeded Malaysia. It is time for Malaysia to catch up. 

When we want to promote tourism industry by implementing VOA, why do we only offer the VOA to tourists who enter Malaysia from another country? Since we have many direct flights, why do we want to let other countries have them first in order for the tourists to visit Malaysia from another country? The measure is definitely in contradiction with the commitment to promote tourism industry. 
The Tourism Ministry should have more interactions with tour operators and not shutting its eyes and ears. The tour operators are the ones who understand the need and the dilemma faced by operators in tourism sector. They are the ones who directly involve in promoting tourism industry. The Tourism Ministry and Home Affairs Ministry should have more contact with tour operators to listen to their feedback and promote tourism industry with tour operators together.

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