It has been six days since Malaysia has allowed tourists from China and India to enter the country visa-free.
This is part of the government's Visa Liberalisation Plan to spur tourism and economy in the country while not compromising on the nation's security.
The plan will see, among others:
A 30-day visa exemption for visitors from China and India starting Dec 1, 2023 - Dec 31, 2024.
Granting multiple entry visas for up to 30 days to all tourists intending to enter Malaysia.
Granting of long-term social visit pass for up to 12 months to international students who have completed their studies in Malaysia and intend to either continue their studies, holiday or work part-time in Malaysia. This is open to citizens of 23 high-income, low-risk nations - Australia, New Zealand, Brunei, Singapura, South Korea, Japan, Germany, United Kingdom, France, Canada, Switzerland, Holland, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and the USA.
The rationale behind the plan, according to the Home Ministry, is:
To quickly generate income for the country, which returns will help contribute to the people's wellbeing. This is also hoped to allow easy mobility for professionals, en route to creating new opportunities that will help economic growth.
To celebrate Malaysia and China's diplomatic ties which will turn 50 next year. Malaysia remains among the top destinations for tourists from the mainland. The republic had also granted Malaysians visa-free entry to China starting Dec 1, 2023 to Nov 30, 2024.
A build-up towards Malaysia chairing the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in 2025 and Visit Malaysia Year 2026.
However, this plan does come with several challenges.
To address some of those issues, the Malaysian Immigration Department has opened 14 new counters, in addition to the 74 existing international counters for visitors, at Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport - the main gateway into the country.
A special force has been created to monitor the departure of tourists. Monitoring activities at tourist spots such as Masjid India and Bukit Bintang in Kuala Lumpur will be stepped up to eradicate illegal immigrants. The Not-To-Land practice employed by the local immigration authority will remain strictly enforced.
All visitors (except Singaporeans) will be required to key in their details in the Malaysia Digital Arrival Card which is integrated with the MyIMMs immigration system.
The Visa Liberalisation Plan is set to continue for the next three years, but if there were to be any untoward incidents, the plan will be reevaluated and improved.
How will this plan benefit Malaysians?
From more airline ticket sales to an increase in accommodation bookings, the influx of visitors will assist sectors that were severely impacted at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. The spillover effect of more tourists entering Malaysia will also be enjoyed by domestic businesses nationwide, especially food and retail.
The government hopes that this plan will turn Malaysia into a preferred tourist destination. On a macro level, such a policy will provide the government with data to identify the trends of visitors to Malaysia.
Such data will assist the various ministres, government agencies, and stakeholders to come up with "evidence-based plans" to ensure the nation's tourism sector can cope with current demands and remains sustainable ahead of Visit Malaysia Year 2026.
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