panorama destination

panorama destination

Malaysia Targets 5 Million Chinese Travellers
01 April 2024 | Written by Chris Alexander

Following a highly impressive performance in 2023, tourism industry observers predict inbound arrivals to Malaysia will return to pre-pandemic levels sooner rather than later. It is also expected that the return of Chinese travellers will be a key driver of this recovery. And this process is already well underway.

According to Mint Leong, who is president of the Malaysian Inbound Tourism Association, around 60,000 Chinese arrivals were recorded in Malaysia this January, a year-on-year increase of approximately one-third. The following month, in February, this number doubled to around 120,000. And Leong believes this is just the beginning.

“Chinese New Year will be the best arrivals post-COVID-19,” Leong confidently told Al Jazeera in a recent interview. She expects total Chinese arrivals in Malaysia to top out at around 3-5 million in 2024, with each tourist spending on average 5,000-6,000 Malaysian ringgits ($1,000-$1,200) during their visit.

China has long been a key source market for Malaysian tourism. In 2019, around 3.1 million Chinese nationals made the trip. This year, Malaysia’s government has set a target of 5 million, in a move that indicates both the excellent health of Malaysia’s tourism sector and its confidence; not just emulating, but also exceeding pre-pandemic performance.

In December, government officials in Kuala Lumpur announced visa-free entry for Chinese citizens, which allows visitors from China to stay in the country for up to 30 days for travel and leisure purposes. The move is intended to facilitate an influx of arrivals and help Malaysia meet its tourism targets.

“The visa-free deal will definitely boost Chinese tourist arrivals in Malaysia to aid stronger tourism and related services growth,” says Lee Heng  Guie, who is the executive director of the Kuala Lumpur-based Socio-Economic Research Centre (SERC). Speaking to Al Jazeera, Lee confirmed that ““I expect the number to recover back to pre-pandemic levels this year.”

Since the Chinese New Year celebrations in February, Malaysia has seen a marked increase in the number of visitors from China, reflected in hotel occupancy rates and the rise in demand for flights.

Gerard Walker is the GM of EQ – a five-star hotel in Kuala Lumpur that has witnessed this rise in recent months. Speaking to Al Jazeera, he noted that “these numbers are forecasted to remain steady and grow throughout the year. Increased flights from regional centres and larger capacity aeroplanes also play a part in the increasing number of arrivals.”

“The increased number of flights per day in the January to March period also point to Malaysia being an attractive travel prospect, or alternative destination to other, more crowded Southeast Asian destinations.”

With more flights on the horizon and accommodating visa arrangements in place, the uptick in Chinese arrivals is expected to continue long into the summer season. It will then be a question of when, rather than if, Malaysia meets its targets and moves beyond its pre-pandemic level.