PETALING JAYA, April 3 — Travel agents say the introduction of the 15-day multiple entry visas should be followed by supporting moves to fully capitalise on an expected influx of Indian tourists.
Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) president Datuk Hamzah Rahmat said facilities, vehicles and the general mindset of Malaysians towards tourism needed to change.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had announced on Saturday tourists from India could now apply for a 15-day multiple entry visa.
“Matta lauds the move by the government. This is a step in the right direction. It is long overdue and Malaysia should have done so when the facility was extended to China,” Hamzah said.
“For us to really take advantage of this, upgrades and improvements to existing tourist infrastructure must be made as soon as possible.”
He said many tourist vehicles currently in use were meant to transport cargo and were either inadequate or uncomfortable for tourists.
“Initiatives by the government to bring in new, purpose-built vehicles are sorely needed,” he said.
“We need to either introduce or upgrade our tourist infrastructure in terms of facilities, information booths, maps and brochures. All these must be brought up to standard.”
Hamzah said it was important to make a concerted effort to improve the mindset of Malaysians as a whole to be tourist-friendly.
He cited Thailand as an example of this, with even schoolchildren being taught the importance of being kind and polite to visitors.
“We must cultivate a positive attitude towards tourism as it has become a major source of income for the country and is set to grow even more over the coming years,” he said.
“Do not treat tourists like aliens as they are bringing income. We must be polite, cheerful and receptive as this is national income.”
Hamzah said it was vital for all sides to be fully aware of facilities and changes to the visa to avoid confusion, and streamline the transition to avoid a repeat last year’s “Golden Week” fiasco.
“We lost out due to confusion of the new visa facility for China tourists coming in for their holiday season, called the ‘Golden Week’, as they spend vast sums in a short holiday,” he said.
“We must avoid mistakes like that and cultivate the China and India markets as these are huge and, if properly done, will keep the industry going for years.”
Hamzah said the mindset towards visas should also change as the income was from the actual arrival and stay of tourists.
“Look beyond visas as income as the real money is getting tourists here. Make it easy for them and they will flock here and everyone will see the results,” he said.
Responding to a Malay Mail report on the poor state of the tourism industry in 2015, Hamzah said he was optimistic of the outlook in the coming year.
“That year was bad and last year was largely stagnant,” he said
“We had hit the bottom and we cannot go any lower, but with positive moves like this, the expectations for this year are that things will improve.”