KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 2, 2016:

The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) hopes that visa-free entry for China nationals into the country will become a reality.

Its president Datuk Hamzah Rahmat said that the association remains confident that with the re-calibration of the Budget 2016 recently announced by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak that tourists from China will be allowed to enter Malaysia without visas for up to 15 days stay from March 1 to Dec 31 this year will be realised as a measure to improve Malaysian tourism.

“There have been at least three announcements about visa-free entry for China nationals to date, as with past announcements, it seems that our Immigration Department will have the last and final say despite the announcements or directives given by our Prime Minister, we hope this time it will become a reality.

“MATTA has been pleading with the Government for almost two years now, since the MH370 incident to allow visa-free entry for China tourists to boost visitor arrivals,” he said in a statement, today.

He said that with the government’s previous inconsistencies in their initiative to allow visa-free entry between the two nations, the country’s tourism industry had suffered great loss.

“Our local travel industry as well as the China travel industry has lost faith and confidence with all these announcements. It has become a laughing matter to China tourists. As a matter of fact, we were the last among the top Asean countries to adopt this policy.”

He explained that the procedural engagement of the process must also be looked into, stating that Malaysia must not stress too much on the “terms and conditions” attached to the offer of visa-free to the China nationals stating the action may affect the trade.

“We are glad that the first phase of e-Visa or rather ‘online application’ was launched on Jan 2 and the announcement that implementation of the remaining phases will be sped up.

“However, having an ‘e-Visa’ today simply means that we can apply for the visa online, get instant confirmation and simply present our passports at immigration counters and it will be processed accordingly.

“No printing, no waiting, no hassle. We are making a mockery of ourselves by referring to our “online application” as an ‘e-Visa’.

“Are we not supposed to be a technologically advanced country?” questioned Hamzah.

Hamzah added that Malaysia as a whole must embrace and learn the “true meaning” of tourism, saying that all stakeholders within the industry must realise the true potential of the industry and the profits that it can bring into the nation’s economy.

“Tourism is not just about arrival numbers, it is measured by spending receipts as well as the creation of jobs in the country.

“Do not overlook the hard cash in foreign currency that tourism brings in that we need to spur our country’s economy. Look at the bigger picture,” said Hamzah.

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