Why are we sabotaging efforts to bring Chinese tourists back to Malaysia?: Sin Chew Daily

Tourists taking a selfie in front of a fountain outside a popular shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur, on Feb 23, 2016.
Tourists taking a selfie in front of a fountain outside a popular shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur, on Feb 23, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

In its editorial on Mar 16, the paper urges the government to ensure all its departments work together to achieve goals.

To lure more Chinese tourists to the country, the Malaysian government has introduced the visa-free policy for Chinese tourists arriving in groups of two and above.

Unfortunately this goodwill effort has been hijacked by the drastic rise in processing fee.

The ordinary visa processing fee for Chinese nationals has shot up by 233 per cent without prior warning, sparking uproar among the tour operators.

Single entry visa processing fee has been increased from 120 yuan (S$25.43) to 400 yuan while multiple entry visa processing fee is now 500 yuan, up from 220 yuan.

This means that even if the Malaysian government has exempted the 80-yuan visa fee for Chinese tourists, they have to fork out with even more thanks to the sudden surge in processing fee, and this is poised to dampen their will of visiting Malaysia.

From what we have learned, the rapid rise in processing fee has been a unilateral decision by Ultra Kinrara Sdn Bhd which has been commissioned to handle visa processing matters for Chinese tourists.

Tourism Malaysia chairman Wee Choo Keong has said he was not aware of the fee adjustment.

Anyway, it is imperative that the government step in and not allow a private company's decision to mar the government's kind objectives and national interests.

Following the rise of China as an economic power, the enormous Chinese tourist market has been much sought after by governments the world over.

Many countries, including our neighbours Thailand and Indonesia, have introduced measures to draw them to their countries.

While Malaysia is also putting some effort in this aspect, including the visa waiver policy and the appointment of Shila Amzah as Tourism Malaysia's ambassador to China, our policies have been pathetically inconsistent, thwarting the government's effort to draw more Chinese tourists to our shores.

The visa waiver policy for Chinese nationals has itself been delayed on several occasions from the earliest government announcement until it was officially implemented on March 1, with conditions of gross incoordination among involved agencies prevailing and government information absolutely confounding.

Nevertheless, the drastic rise in processing fee that came soon after has become yet another push factor.

While on the one hand the government has firmly expressed its intention of luring more Chinese tourists here, on the other hand it has never taken positive steps to coordinate with the various agencies involved so as to move ahead towards this goal in unison.

Such a situation is like pouring cold water on the units eagerly promoting tourism, including Tourism Malaysia.

Tourism is one of the most important sources of revenue for the country, and this is especially true at a time the country's economy is slowing down.

The government must strive to attract more foreign tourists in order to revitalize the anemic domestic economy.

The crucial point is: the government must ensure that all relevant departments and units coordinate their actions in order to fulfill this goal, and must do its best to forestall incidents of sabotage that will offset any positive input from the government.

* Sin Chew Daily is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 22 newspapers.