Saturday, May 18, 2024

Visa-free travel extension can bring more Chinese nationals

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PETALING JAYA: The Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) programme is expected to gain popularity among Chinese nationals following the extension of visa-free travel between Malaysia and China, says a stakeholder.

Malaysia China Business Council director Datuk Beh Hang Kong said visitors from China have been drawn to Malaysia for its favourable climate, language familiarity and rich cultural heritage.“I’m sure demand for the MM2H will grow, especially with Malaysia’s close friendship with China that spans decades.

“The timely arrangement will boost various related sectors, creating opportunities for economic development and shared growth,” he said.

Beh said the announcement of the extension of visa-free travel to China for Malaysian citizens until the end of 2025 came at the perfect time, as both nations are celebrating their 50th anniversary of bilateral relations this year.

“This is an excellent turnout, and I think Malaysia will likely reciprocate with a similar arrangement soon,” he said in an interview on Wednesday.

Reflecting on last year’s initial implementation of the visa-free travel privilege, he said, the tourism sector in Malaysia has since witnessed significant improvements.

“Guided tours, necessitated by visa requirements in the past, have since shifted to a more flexible and personalised travel experience with visa-free requirements.“Travellers can now engage in detailed trip planning, including in-depth exploration and engagement with local culture and communities.

“This change is likely to boost various related sectors, including hotels, homestays and farm stays, creating opportunities for economic growth in smaller towns through enhanced promotion via social media and ecotourism initiatives,” he said.

The durian industry, with only a fraction of its potential currently tapped into China, also presents vast opportunities for market expansion, he said.

“Malaysia’s durians offer superior quality and taste; there is room for growth in our exports to China, offering a competitive edge over other producing countries in the region.

“We should not worry about competition; we just need proactive planning, leveraging our unique selling points, and enhancing engagement with consumers,” he said.

Beh, who is also the China-Malaysia Qinzhou Industrial Park deputy board chairman, called on tourism-related businesses and service providers to prepare themselves well to cater to an influx of Chinese visitors.

“This is the time to take action and expand based on our uniqueness, to attract more visitors.

“For example, durian orchard owners can offer farm stays and durian tours, while the local authorities should identify potential tourism products and have collaborations,” he said.

Malaysian Tourism Federation president Datuk Tan Kok Liang said the visa-free extension for Malaysians by China was more than just a mere convenience in terms of cost and time saved.

“It highlights that this initiative is aimed at enhancing the experience of tourists and making them feel more welcome in China.

“This is a positive step towards fostering exchange and collaboration between the two countries.”

Tan said a reciprocal response from Malaysia is crucial to maintaining a harmonious flow of tourists between the countries and preventing a potential decline in tourist numbers.

“The essential nature of tourism as a sector centres on delivering exceptional services and ensuring visitors feel welcomed and embraced.

“This will certainly boost tourism activities,” he added.

Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia president Tan Sri Low Kian Chuan said the government should negotiate to establish a permanent visa exemption policy with China.

“I am certain that Malaysian businesses and industries will benefit immensely from the permanent removal of travel barriers, especially the tourism and aviation industries.

“Malaysia and China must continue to strengthen exchanges and cooperation with China in the fields of tourism, people-to-people, educational and cultural exchanges,” he said.

Since Malaysia and China are celebrating their 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations, Low noted that the mutual visa waiver will be a catalyst to strengthen deeper human connections and unlock new opportunities for mutual benefits.

Meanwhile, SME Association of Malaysia secretary-general Chin Chee Seong said the tourism industry is expected to experience a significant boom, benefiting businesses in the travel and hospitality sectors.

“Hotels, restaurants, airlines, travel agencies, souvenir shops and transportation services can anticipate an increase in Chinese tourists visiting Malaysia,” he said.The retail industry, said Chin, was likely to see a surge in spending as more Chinese tourists arrive in Malaysia.

“Retailers can capitalise on this by offering a diverse range of goods, including luxury items and everyday necessities,” he said.

Chin noted that easier travel between Malaysia and China would facilitate more business interactions.

“Sectors such as manufacturing, import and export, and professional services stand to benefit from increased business opportunities. This could incentivise further investment and expansion in these sectors, leading to job creation and economic growth,” he said.

Lauding the visa-free travel, Chin said it is a positive development for Malaysia’s economy that fosters a more integrated economic relationship, benefiting businesses in both countries.

“This development can create new job opportunities, promote innovation and facilitate knowledge sharing between Malaysia and China,” he said.

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