Returning the favour? Malaysia to offer visa-free entry to Chinese nationals

Following China’s opening of visa-free visits to ordinary passport holders of 6 countries including Malaysia, Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim announced similar measures for Chinese and Indian citizens. Starting on the 1st of December, visitors from the two countries will be granted entry without a visa for visits up to 30 days. The exemption will be in place until December 31st, 2024.

China is the third largest source of tourists for Malaysia, just after Singapore and Indonesia. Malaysia welcomed 3.11 million Chinese visitors in pre-pandemic 2019, making up 11.9% of all inbound tourists that year. For the first 6 months of post-pandemic 2023, the country received 9.16 million tourists, making up about 68.6% of its 2019 level. In the same period, there were 354,486 arrivals from China, compared to 498,540 in the first half of 2019.

The move to offer visa-free entry to Chinese citizens is welcomed by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Wang Wenbin, as well as Chinese netizens. With 130 million views on the Chinese Twitter-like platform Weibo, the topic “Malaysia to allow visa-free entry to Chinese visitors” (#马来西亚将对中国游客免签#) reached number 6 on the Hot Search list.

Within 24 hours, Malaysia-related searches tripled on the Alibaba-owned Fliggy online travel platform. On another travel platform Mafengwo, searches also surged by 166%, with Kuala Lumpur, Semporna and Kota Kinabalu being the most popular destinations, rising 98%, 83% and 80% in searches respectively. With flight prices from Chinese cities to Malaysian destinations already shooting up for the New Year period, it is expected that for the Chinese New Year holiday, travel to Malaysia can surpass pre-pandemic levels.


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