Malaysia is set to offer visa-free entry to Chinese tourists starting from next month, in a bid to boost its tourism industry that has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim announced the policy during his recent visit to China, saying that it would benefit both countries and strengthen their bilateral ties.
However, some Malaysian tour operators are sceptical of how much this policy will help the local tourism sector, as they face stiff competition from larger Chinese agencies that organise prearranged, prepaid trips for their clients. They also point out that Chinese tourists have become more discerning and independent in their travel choices, thanks to the influence of social media platforms such as TikTok.
TikTok Travel Itinerary is a Thing Now
According to a report by the South China Morning Post, TikTok has changed the way Chinese tourists plan their trips, as they seek out more authentic and personalised experiences that are not offered by conventional tour packages. They also rely on the recommendations and reviews of other users, rather than official sources or advertisements.
This means that Malaysia will have to work harder to attract and retain Chinese tourists, by offering them more diverse and attractive destinations, activities, and services that cater to their preferences and needs. Malaysia will also have to improve its infrastructure, safety, and hygiene standards, as well as its visa and immigration procedures, to ensure a smooth and hassle-free travel experience for Chinese visitors.
Malaysia’s Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Tiong King Sing, said that the government is aware of the challenges and opportunities posed by the visa-free policy, and that it will work closely with the relevant stakeholders to promote and enhance Malaysia’s tourism products and services. He also said that the government will discuss with the Chinese authorities to facilitate the implementation of the policy and to address any issues that may arise.
Malaysia is not the only country that is eyeing the lucrative Chinese tourist market, as China has also granted visa-free entry to citizens of several other countries, including France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, and Malaysia itself. These countries will have to compete with each other, as well as with other popular destinations such as Thailand, Japan, and South Korea, to win over the hearts and wallets of Chinese travellers.
Malaysia has set a target of attracting 16 million tourists in 2021, of which 4 million are expected to come from China. The visa-free policy is seen as a key strategy to achieve this goal, as well as to revive the tourism industry that contributes about 15 percent to the country’s gross domestic product. Whether this policy will succeed or not remains to be seen, as Malaysia will have to prove itself as a worthy and appealing destination for Chinese tourists in the post-pandemic era.