Matta: Govt should extend visa-free period

Two orders permitting a 15-day visa exemption for tourists from China and India are gazetted in conjunction with VM2020


THE government should consider extending the visa exemption programme for Chinese and Indian tourists beyond the Visit Malaysia 2020 (VM2020) period, said Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) deputy president Mohd Akil Yusof.

He said the visa-free entry concept should also be open to other countries to boost the local tourism industry.

Just two days before the year ends, the government has gazetted two orders permitting a 15-day visa exemption for tourists from China and India in conjunction with VM2020.

“It is a very good move and one that is lauded by the travel industry,” Mohd Akil told The Malaysian Reserve yesterday.

In a statement, the government said for the whole of next year, tourists from both China and India can visit Malaysia for a span of 15 days, provided they register via the Electronic Travel Registration and Information (eNTRI) system — either individually or through travel agencies in their respective countries.

Once registered, the tourists must travel to Malaysia within three months. The 15-day visa-free period, however, cannot be extended and these tourists cannot apply for any other passes under the Immigration Regulations 1963.

“Since it has been set for 2020, the government should be able to gather data and information by the end of the year to study the impact of their move.

“Of course, the move should be one that does not compromise the security and safety of the country. Should all go well and numbers flourish, then the government should consider extending it beyond 2020,” he said.

Mohd Akil added that the government would have the nation’s best interest above all.

“At the end of the day, they would know what’s best. For now, the move is apt and timely since we are one day away before VM2020 kick-starts.

“Speaking from an industry perspective, we would reckon the visafree entry to be extended even after VM2020,” he said, adding that the visa-free entry would encourage tourists into Malaysia instead of those who are considering of staying or working in the country.

“Given that the process is lenient and user-friendly, it would push the number of tourists from both countries higher. From there, the government would be able to reflect and consider extending the programme,” he said, adding that a 15-day free entry is being practised by many other countries.

For the first nine months of this year, international tourist arrivals reached more than 20 million, with a total receipt of RM66.14 billion. According to the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry, the top 10 countries with the highest contribution of tourist arrivals were Singapore with 7,868,755 visitors, followed by Indonesia (2,792,776), China (2,413,956), Thailand (1,442,224), Brunei (929,789), India (539,167), South Korea (508,080), Vietnam (323,393), Japan (321,283) and the Philippines (317,294).

Up until September this year, the main contributors to the tourist expenditure were Singapore (RM16.3 billion), China (RM12.8 billion), Indonesia (RM8.8 billion), Thailand (RM2.8 billion) and India (RM2.5 billion).

The government has set a target of 30 million international tourist arrivals next year and a total tourist receipts of RM100 billion.

The Pakatan Harapan administration, however, emphasised that upon arrival, tourists must prove that they have sufficient money or a credit card and provide an itinerary of their travel plans, the statement reads.

Chinese tourists were first granted the 15-day visa exemption on Oct 1, 2015, while Indian citizens including expatriates who visit Malaysia as tourists were first given exemption on April 1, 2017. The exemptions for both countries were extended every year.

The exemption for tourists who are citizens of China comes with several conditions. Applicants must register via the eNTRI system provided by the Immigration Department; they must have a return ticket and must produce on arrival proof of sufficient pocket money, credit card or bank card with the UnionPay, AliPay or eWallet logo; and they must also produce their itinerary in Malaysia upon arrival.

According to the Immigration Department, the orders stated that the 15-day exemption could not be extended, and upon leaving Malaysia, the tourist was only allowed to re-register for exemption after three months.

The exemption for tourists who are citizens of India has almost similar conditions, while the exemption of Indian expatriates applies to all citizens of India working as expatriates outside India in all countries except Singapore.

They are granted the exemption when travelling to Malaysia as tourists.