KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Thousands of Chinese tourists are believed to have been unable to visit Malaysia from Oct 1 to 7, dubbed the “Golden Week” in China because of its national day, due to an alleged slip-up from the Home Ministry which failed to inform its Chinese counterparts of a visa-free facility.
This apparently led to the tourists being stopped at airports in China and told they could not leave for Malaysia as they did not have visas.
Tourism Malaysia chairman Wee Choo Keong, who disclosed this yesterday, said the Home Ministry only gave the green light on Sept 28 for the visa-free facility to be implemented, giving everyone concerned only 72 hours to prepare for the tourists.
“Chinese airport authorities were apparently unaware of the new facility and did not allow Chinese tourists to leave for Malaysia,” he said.
Wee said the poor preparation for the implementation of the visa-free facility had cost the country dearly as the tourists did not get to spend their money here.
“It was a week-long holiday for them and they would have been happy visiting Malaysia. But it turned out otherwise,’” he added.
The Golden Week has in the past seen thousands of Chinese tourists landing here over the period.
In June, Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz had announced the Cabinet had agreed to implement the visa-free facility that would allow Chinese tour groups to stay in Malaysia for 15 days from Sept 1.
But this was postponed to Oct 1 to ensure guidelines were in place.
Earlier yesterday, 37 Malaysia Inbound Tourism Association members told reporters they had incurred losses running into millions of ringgit because of the cancellation of bookings by Chinese tour groups.
Association secretary-general Mint Leong said travel agents in China had also decided to call off group tours because of problems related to the visa-free facility.
She said nearly 250 groups of 20 each was to have arrived here but most cancelled because of the hiccup.
She suggested the Home Ministry resolve the matter immediately so Chinese tourists continue to visit Malaysia.
“Our currency is not at its best, and we should be encouraging more Chinese tourists to spend their money in Malaysia as they are known to be the big spenders,” she said.
Leong also suggested the Home Ministry bring back the visa-on-arrival facility for Chinese tourists, which was halted last year.