The medium-haul market saw an increase as travellers from China and India took advantage of the visa-free period expansion date
by AFIQ AZIZ / pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL
MALAYSIA’S inbound tourist receipts increased to RM21.4 billion in the first quarter this year (1Q19), 16.9% higher than the RM18.3 billion that was achieved in the previous year’s corresponding period.
Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Mohamaddin Ketapi said the improvement is mainly attributed to the increase in arrivals of short-and-medium- haul market — particularly visitors from the East and South Asian countries that contributed 1.9% and 8.6% to the overall growth respectively.
“The growth of short-haul market is a result of new flights by airlines, such as Citilink Indonesia for the Surabaya-Kuala Lumpur sector that commenced in January this year.
“Special offers from airlines for the festive season and school holiday period are also part of the contributing factors to the increase,” he told a media briefing on the country’s tourism update for 1Q19.
Short haul marketplace, particularly Asean countries including Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam contributed 4.6 million visitors for the quarter.
Medium haul countries, comprising China, Korea, Japan, India and Pakistan reported the traffic of 1.47 million passengers during the three-month period.
In total, 6.7 million footfall was recorded in 1Q19, a slight increase of 2.7% from 6.52 million tourists that arrived in the country during the previous year’s corresponding period.
Mohamaddin said the mediumhaul market, especially for China and India, saw an increase as travellers from the two countries took advantage of the expansion date of the visa-free period that has been stretched to December this year.
He said, airline operators including AirAsia Bhd, Malaysia Airlines Bhd and Malindo Airways Sdn Bhd have also offered an extra 5% increase in passenger seats to visitors from India.
The long-haul market, which denotes more than six hours travelling time to Malaysia, particularly for travellers from European countries, the US and Africa, on the other hand, recorded a 3.6% decrease in the number of visitors to 652,032 passengers.
Tourism Malaysia DG Datuk Musa Yusof said the trend is usual as the market which mainly comprises four-season countries, is expected to only grow between June and September.
“This is because most tourists from these countries start to use their leave on July 1, compared to us which granted annual leave as at Jan 1. So they will use their carry forward leave by July,” he said.
The ministry has also revised down its forecast for the number of tourist arrivals for 2020 by 17% to a more realistic figure of 30 million, from an earlier target of 36 million.
This year, the government is expected to achieve 28.1 million visitor footfall worth RM100 billion in tourist receipts, higher than the RM84.1 billion that was recorded last year.
Malaysian tourism is the third largest foreign income earner after manufacturing and palm oil industry, which accounts for over 7% of the country economy.
Meanwhile, Musa said Tourism Malaysia has submitted its proposal to simplify visa-on-arrival (VoA) applications for Chinese tourists to the Cabinet, as part of an effort tap into a profitable market.
He said the ministry has also requested the Immigration Department to allocate additional entry points for VoA facilities throughout the country, including Brunei.
“Currently, Chinese tourists in Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore can apply VoA at our entry point but not to those who are already in Brunei. They have to apply that manually and it has to be done in their country. So, we are losing this market,” he said.
Musa said the ministry will announce the additional VoA facilities at a later date.
“We are also expecting to gather more data on how many additional Chinese visitors we can attract once we received the approval,” he added.