JOHOR BARU, Jan 29, 2016:

The Johor state government will look into actively engaging regional carriers in an effort to offer direct flights from China to Johor.

This follows a new ruling where tourists from China will not require visas to visit Malaysia between March 1 and Dec 31 this year.

The announcement to the visa-free waiver was made by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak during the recalibrated 2016 budget.

Johor Tourism, Trade and Consumer Affairs Committee chairman Datuk Tee Siew Keong said the announcement came at the right time as the state government could discuss about direct flights from China to Johor and vice-versa.

“We (state government) welcome any regional carriers that are keen to commence direct flights from China to the Senai International Airport in Senai, Johor,” he told The Rakyat Post today.

Previously, budget airline AirAsia used to operate the Senai to Macau route, but the direct flight was terminated in 2008.

The state government then announced that airlines, such as the Guangzhou-based China Southern Airlines (CSA), had expressed an interest in starting flights from several Chinese provinces to Senai. However, there was no firm commitment to the plan.

Tee said the Prime Minister’s announcement on the visa waiver for China tourists as part of the recalibrated 2016 budget was long awaited in the interest of boosting tourism.

“Johor will benefit with the visa-free entry for China tourists to Malaysia as the state’s tourism products are well known among them.

“At present, China tourists also make up the top three nationals visiting Johor, after Singaporeans and Indonesians,” he said.

Tee, who has been instrumental in promoting tourism in the state to China, said the announcement could be seen as a plus for several regional airlines to commence direct flights from China to Senai in Johor.

He said this was because Malaysia would soon join Indonesia and Thailand as these countries offered visa-free entry for China tourists.

The Pulai Sebatang assemblyman also hoped that Johoreans who were involved in the tourism industry would take the opportunity to showcase Johor to attract the China tourists.

Over the years, China tourists have been considered one of the top nationals who spend tourist dollars in the region. Their top destinations are Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand.

Tourism Malaysia aims to attract two million China tourists to Malaysia this year as China is a huge market with 109 million Chinese travelling outbound in 2014.

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