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‘Visa-waiver can stimulate economic activities in tourism & hospitality sectors’

With Malaysia announcing visa-waiver for the Indian market, the move is expected to boost inbound to the South East Asian nation. Manoharan Periasamy, Sr Director, International Promotion (Asia & Africa), Tourism Malaysia speaks to Disha Shah Ghosh about implications of the visa-waiver announcement, engagement with the travel trade in India, and competitive advantage of this decision between India and China.
Q. How will the decision by the Prime Minister of Malaysia to waive off visa for Indian nationals starting December 1, impact inbound traffic from India?
The decision by the Malaysian government to waive visas for Indian nationals is likely to have a positive impact on inbound traffic from India, and is a significant step to enhance bilateral relations and with simplified travel requirements, more Indian tourists may be inclined to visit Malaysia. They may find it more convenient to plan trips, leading to a rise in the number of tourists exploring Malaysian destinations, cultural attractions, and other tourism-related activities.
This move can stimulate economic activities, particularly in the tourism and hospitality sectors, encourage cultural exchanges, and strengthen ties between the two nations. The influx of Indian tourists may contribute to increase spending on accommodation, dining, transportation, and local attractions, providing a positive impact on the Malaysian economy. In addition, business travellers, investors, and professionals may find it more convenient to conduct meetings, explore opportunities, and participate in trade events, fostering economic cooperation between the two countries.
Finally, visa waivers can serve as a diplomatic gesture, demonstrating a commitment to fostering positive relations between the two countries. It can be seen as a measure to strengthen diplomatic ties and promote people-to-people connections.
Q. What made the Malaysian government make this announcement for key tourism source markets of India and China at this point of time?
There are several factors as to why Malaysia introduced the visa-free policies, especially in key tourism source markets like India and China:
1. Boosting Tourism: One of the primary reasons for implementing visa-free policies is to stimulate tourism. By eliminating or simplifying visa requirements, a country can attract more visitors, boosting its tourism industry and the economy.
2. Economic Impact: Increased tourism can have positive economic effects, including the creation of jobs, growth in the hospitality sector, and additional revenue from tourism-related activities.
3. Enhancing Diplomatic Relations: Visa-free policies can be used as a diplomatic tool to strengthen ties with specific countries. By facilitating travel, a country may aim to foster better diplomatic relations and cooperation.
4. Market Diversification: By targeting specific markets like India and China, governments may aim to diversify their tourism sources, reducing dependency on traditional markets and expanding their reach to emerging economies with a growing middle class.
5. Competitive Advantage: In a competitive global tourism market, countries may implement visa-free policies to gain a competitive advantage over other destinations. This is especially true for countries looking to attract a larger share of the international tourism market.
Q. With this development, what measures are underway to entice the various Indian traveller segments?
The Malaysian government is likely to implement various measures to entice different segments of Indian travellers. Tourism Malaysia will be focusing on a few strategies for the successful implementation of the tourism industry’s development and performance as follows: –
i. Forge smart partnerships with travel industry players e.g. airlines, travel agents, top tour operators and OTAs. The establishment of both private and public sector partnerships is pertinent; both sectors will work together to offer new packages and better service quality to realign Malaysia as the preferred tourism destination.
ii. Enhance tourism promotion (online and offline) through digital medium/ online brochures, and participation at international tradeshows/ exhibitions/ travel expos and roadshows,
iii. Optimise strategic communication/media engagement; for instance hosting social media influencers, media, travel agencies, corporate companies, travellers, incentive groups, and tourism associations from India to experience Malaysia through familiarisation trips.
iv. Co-organise international events like the International India Film Academy (IIFA) Awards 2024 to Malaysia; a major platform to showcase Malaysia to the most prestigious event from the Bollywood industry.
v. Collaborations with travel agencies and online platforms to streamline the visa-free process could also be part of the strategy. Additionally, efforts to enhance tourism infrastructure and ensure safety and comfort for Indian tourists could play a significant role in attracting diverse segments of Indian travellers to Malaysia.
Q. Currently, where does India rank as a priority market for Malaysia. With this development, how do you see India improving in its ranking?
India is a significant priority market for Malaysia, with strong economic ties and cultural connections. India is Malaysia’s fifth largest source of tourists. Malaysia recorded 14.4 million tourist arrivals between January and September 2023, with 472,479 from India.
In terms of air accessibility, 180 flights with 33,374 seats are offered weekly between India and Malaysia through Malaysia Airlines, Batik Air, AirAsia, and IndiGo. In addition, the availability of flights as well as the expected increase in flights and new routes will also be able to increase the number of Indian tourists arriving in Malaysia.
The country has emerged as the fastest-growing outbound destination, surpassing other nations in tourism sector growth. The decision to waive off visa could enhance this relationship, fostering tourism and business exchanges, and potentially elevating India’s ranking in Malaysia’s priority markets.
Q. In terms of forecast, how will this announcement impact competitiveness between India and China, both considered as strong tourism source markets in Asia?
The Malaysian government’s decision to waive off visas could lead to increased competitiveness between India and China as tourism source markets in Asia. This move may attract more tourists from both countries and the impact on competitiveness will depend on various factors including marketing strategies, accessibility, and travel infrastructure. Monitoring tourism trends and promotional efforts will be crucial to assess the evolving dynamic between India and China in Malaysia’s tourism sector.

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