KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 26 (Bernama) -- Waiving visas would be a right move to increase the number of Chinese tourists to Malaysia, said Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) president, Hamzah Rahmat.
He said this was not only the right thing to do but also the much needed shot-in-the-arm for the country's ailing tourism industry, especially in the current situation with the depreciation of the ringgit.
"The number of Chinese tourists plunged 27.1 per cent in the first quarter of 2015, from the figure in the same period last year. Obviously, Malaysia's loss is other countries' gain," he said in a statement, here, today.
He was responding to a recent local news report quoting UMNO Youth executive committee member Armizan Mohd Ali as saying that the move to waive visas for Chinese tourists was not the right approach to increase the number of tourist arrivals from that country.
The report also quoted Immigration Department enforcement director Zahari Abdul Aziz as saying the move might boost tourist arrivals from China, but there were those who came here to work and caused social ills.
Hamzah raised the question of "why some quarters are paranoid about social ills when countries around the world welcome Chinese visitors with open arms".
"Anyone who is overly concerned about social ills should first scrutinise 'the elephant in the room', and that is the millions of undocumented workers in the country.
"In contrast, only 1,493 Chinese tourists were found to have overstayed last year and 612 involved in immoral activities. It is a miniscule figure against the 1,613,355 Chinese that visited Malaysia in 2014.
"Chinese tourists are the world's biggest spenders and they are known to empty the shelves of luxury stores in London, Paris, Rome and New York," he said.
Hamzah said that apart from the four ASEAN nations - Brunei, Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand - which share borders with Malaysia, the largest numbers of visitors were from China and India.
"To attract even more, MATTA has been advocating that they be allowed to enter and stay in Malaysia for up to 15 days without a visa.