By LYDIA NATHAN / Pic By MUHD AMIN NAHARUL
MALAYSIA is expected to see an increase in tourist arrivals from former Soviet Republic nation, Azerbaijan, following the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU), which is part of a tourism initiative between the two countries.
The MoU will pave the way for a two-year cooperation between Azerbaijan Tourism Association (AzTA) and Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta).
Tourism Malaysia’s international promotion division for the US, Europe and Oceania senior director Zulkafli Yahya (picture) said the initiative could push the number of tourists from Azerbaijan to between 1,500 and 2,000 people.
Malaysia recorded a total of 1,035 tourists from Azerbaijan, an increase of 12.1% from the number reported in 2016.
The growth trend continued this year with an increase of 18.8% in arrivals for the first four months.
“The cooperation between both tourism parties is timely and strategic as Azerbaijan is a growing market with great potential for us to tap into the leisure and high-end market segments,” he told reporters after the MoU signing in Kuala Lumpur (KL) yesterday.
He added that the MoU will see collaborations between the two tourism parties and travel agents in developing special tour packages, as well as having discussions to establish possible flight connections.
“We look forward to seeing flight and tour packages developed for this market,” Zulkafli said.
Matta deputy president Mohd Akil Mohd Yusof told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) that some of the challenges that have kept tourists from visiting Malaysia include the lack of direct flights to the country as well as visa application issues.
“Even though the number of tourists may seem very small now, I believe that this figure can go far. We need the logistics first. If there is a flight between Baku and KL, it will definitely spur things on.
“We are hoping to see some materialisation of these flights by March or April next year,” he said to TMR.
Currently, airlines flying to Azerbaijan include Emirates, Turkish Airlines and Qatar Airways. However, all the flights require passengers to stop over in Doha, which sometimes is seen as a concern as it would add up to long flying hours.
Citizens of Azerbaijan do not need visas to come into Malaysia. However, Malaysians have to apply for visas that would cost about RM83 to visit Azerbaijan.
“There is also a lack of education on both sides about each other’s country. This is actually a good platform and Matta can play a more active role together with AzTA,” Akil said.
Meanwhile, Malaysia has stayed on as one of the most popular dest inat ions for Chinese tourists, according to online payment platform, Alipay.
In a statement released, Alipay said Malaysia has beaten out countries like Australia and the US.
“Malaysia saw a 29% increase in average per capita spend this year, approximately RM817, while this spending showed the country’s growth in transaction volume increase by 90% compared to 2017,” Alipay said.
Alipay cross-border business for South and South-East Asia GM Cherry Huang said Malaysia also beats out neighbouring countries like Singapore and Thailand.
“Despite our recent ventures into popular European nations this year, Malaysia still remains one of the most popular destinations for Chinese tourists and continues to record high transactional volumes over our holiday periods, showing that they appreciate the ability to use Alipay when making payments with local merchants,” Huang said.
Malaysia is expected to continue cementing its position as the preferred destination for Chinese tourists in years to come, seeing the use of over three million Alipay e-Coupons by overseas travellers to make purchases.