The introduction on January 2, 2016 of an e-visa for citizens of seven countries does not seem to make headlines.
As Malaysia needs more tourist dollars to boost its economy, it is crucial to ensure a smooth visa process for tourists especially from China, stressed Tourism Malaysia chairman Wee Choo Keong.
Talking to Malaysia news agency Bernama, he explained that the immigration department needed to be more transparent and sincere in relaxing visa conditions before Chinese tourists lost their loyalty to Malaysia. “This is unhealthy and not in our national interest. We must stop all confusion before losing Chinese tourists’ loyalty,” he said, pointing out that the application process for the electronic visa (e-visa) programme was inconvenient.
Wee said while the e-visa was a boon to the tourism industry, tourism promotion activities could not be resumed if the visa process remained confusing and difficult for Chinese applicants. He said Tourism Malaysia aimed to attract two million Chinese tourists to Malaysia this year, and explained that China was a huge market with 109 million Chinese travelling outbound in 2014.
Last December, the Malaysian cabinet announced the e-visa programme allowing visitors from seven countries namely China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, the United States and Canada to apply for Malaysia’s tourist visas online.
The purpose of relaxing visa applications was to attract more tourists to Malaysia through the implementation of e-visas, especially those from China and India.
However, when the system was up and running on January 2, the process proved to be complicated to applicants compared with the walk-in procedure as they had to file online with return flight and accommodation details.
It is understood that after five working days and upon confirmation, applicants had to send their passport to a visa centre in China and pay 50 yuan for it to be couriered back to them, with another 10 yuan for express service.
The visa fee remains at 80 yuan and processing costs 120 yuan.
Before the e-visa, the visa waiver programme for Chinese nationals travelling in groups of two or more was supposed to start on December 1 last year, although nothing has been so far officially implemented.
SPPV One Stop Centre, the visa processing centre in China, is jointly operated by Ultra Kirana Sdn Bhd and Beijing Lingxiang International Entry and Exit Service Co Ltd.