Malaysia has extended the visa exemption for tourists from India and China until the end of 2019. Inbound DMCs in Malaysia, sourcing from these markets, welcomed the continuation of the exemption, which was to have ceased on December 31, 2018, and was temporarily extended for 15 days, saying it would make Malaysia more competitive against Thailand and Indonesia. Thailand offers visa on arrival for these two markets, which has been made free of cost until April 30, while Indonesia offers visa-free entry to Chinese and Indian tourists.
K Thangavelu, president of the Malaysian Indian Tour & Travel Association (MITTA), said: “There is plenty of direct air connectivity from China and India to Malaysia. Air fares are also very competitive on these routes. The continuation of the visa exemption, which has been extended on a year-to-year basis from October 1, 2015 for Chinese tourists, and from April 1, 2017 for Indian tourists, is a good move by the new government because the hassle of getting a visa has always been a hindrance to travel. If the Malaysian government doesn’t offer this, we may lose both these big markets to neighbouring Indonesia and Thailand.”
Trade experts are unanimous in their opinion that friendly visa policies will help the destination better compete against neighbours, who are all short haul destinations from India and China and are a magnet for large incentive groups and meetings.
Bobby Eng, general manager of Sunflower Holidays in Malaysia said the extension of the visa exemption will help to sell Malaysia to corporate incentive or meeting planners. Eng added, “In the past, the process of obtaining a visa took about five working days. It was a hassle especially for organisers who had to coordinate with participants from different parts of the country. Now individuals planning to travel to Malaysia can register online for the 15-day visa exemption – the approval is fast and the system is user friendly.”
Devesh Agarwal, managing director of Victoria Travels India, said: “Malaysia is an attractive destination but it was lagging behind Thailand primarily due to the difficulty of visa access as well as flight connectivity. With new flights having been introduced from multiple cities in India and now the visa exemption for a year, we expect a quantum leap in growth of Indian MICE groups to Malaysia.”