Concerned over Malaysia losing Indian tourists to other South-East Asian countries in recent years, the Malaysian government has come up with certain measures to check the fall in numbers and plans to make further investment to attract more tourists.
Malaysia’s Tourism Minister Mohamed Nazri bin Abdul Aziz, talking to IANS, said they were in the process of fixing the visa-related issues — the top-most concern raised by some quarters.
“Other countries, such as Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia, are making it easier for Indians to travel to their countries, thus taking away some of the tourists previously visiting Malaysia. So, now we have introduced visa-free entry facility for Indians, even for those living away from their home country,” Nazri said.
Nazri said that after he found that extra visa fee was being charged from those Indians applying for multiple entry, he standardised the visa fee.
The minister said that his government was planning a tie-up with PayTM –a digital wallet widely used in India — to facilitate smooth transaction for India tourists in his country.
Noting that Indians are frequent visitors to his country, Nazri said: “We have planned many incentives for Indians. For example, we have made easier for Indian travel agents to set up companies in Malaysia, investors can have 100 per cent ownership, such as in five-star hotels and resorts, without any involvement of local partners.”
“We will also make it easy for the Indian movie-makers to shoot in Malaysia and provide some special incentives to Indian markets,” he said and stressed the traditional social and cultural bonding between the two countries.
In 2015, over 722,000 tourists from India visited Malaysia, making the country one of the 10 largest source of tourists. However, the number declined to 620,000 in 2016, against the projected one million tourists for the year.
Nazri said that he did not know the exact tourist projection for this year “but the number will top 700,000”.
“We are promoting eco-tourism in Borneo. Also, health tourism is big thing in Malaysia and we have many Indian tourists visiting Malaysia for treatment. Almost 25 per cent of our doctors are trained in India,” he said.
Asked about the effect of the demonetisation of high-value currency notes in India, Nazri said: “It will be too early to say if it had any impact on the decline in number of Indian tourists to Malaysia.”
“Even if it did affect, the impact will be minimal. The most important issue is visa, which we are already addressing,” he said.
(Saurabh Katkurwar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)