Malaysia's new visa-free policy for Chinese travelers is a positive response to China's announcement that it will grant unilateral, visa-free entry to travelers from six countries including Malaysia, tourism industry insiders said.
The move will also boost travel to Malaysia, they added.
Malaysia's visa-free policy for up to 30 days for Chinese travelers will take effect on Friday, China Central Television reported.
Wang Wenbin, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said at a news conference in Beijing on Monday that China is pleased to see Malaysia's visa-free policy for Chinese travelers. He said that China and Malaysia are friendly neighbors whose friendship has been witnessed by history.
He also said that China and Malaysia will embrace the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two nations next year, and the visa-free policy will further boost the communication of people from the two countries.
Tourism industry insiders and travel agencies noted that China extended a friendly gesture to the world by optimizing entry policies for international travelers from some countries, aiming to improve the nation's high-quality development and opening-up, and such goodwill was expected to receive a positive response from the market. That, in turn, will lead to economic benefits in the future, they added.
"We've seen growing searches and bookings of tour products to Malaysia on our platform. Chinese travelers will get easier and quicker access to Malaysia after the policy takes effect, which will also accelerate the sales of our products," said Qi Chunguang, vice-president of travel portal Tuniu.
Searches for and bookings of trips to Malaysia also show strong, growing momentum on other travel portals. For example, online travel service provider Qunar said that, as of Sunday night, searches for trips to Malaysia had doubled on its platform compared with the previous week. Travel portal LY.com said that searches for Malaysian tour products have so far increased by 173 percent month-on-month on the platform.
Nonetheless, China still faces difficulties in resuming its inbound tourism, which was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a report released in September by the World Tourism Alliance, China saw 18 million entries in the first half of 2023 — roughly 12 percent of the figure for the same period in 2019, before the outbreak.
Facing fluctuations in the growth of inbound tourism and the not-yet fully recovered outbound tourism market, China has made continuous efforts to optimize entry policies for international travelers to revitalize the tourism industry and deepen opening-up for better economic development.
China's Foreign Ministry announced on Friday the granting of unilateral, visa-free entry to travelers holding ordinary passports from France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Malaysia.
Under the policy, citizens of the six countries can enter China for business, tourism or family trips, and also for transit purposes, without a visa for up to 15 days. The policy will start on Friday and expire on Nov 30, 2024.
In July, China resumed visa-free entry for up to 15 days to citizens of Singapore and Brunei. The policy had been suspended since March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We and many other tourism companies all feel very excited about the optimized entry policies," said Liang Jianzhang, chairman of the board at Trip.com Group. "We hope that more practical moves can be taken to improve the entry policies, internet use and mobile payment to strengthen China's competitiveness in the world's tourism market."