KUALA LUMPUR: The Socio-Economic Research Centre (SERC) has urged the government to facilitate travel for Chinese and Indian tourists by either offering them visa-free access, or at least simplifying their visa-on-arrival process.
SERC executive director Lee Heng Guie said this could potentially draw high-spending tourists in anticipation of Visit Malaysia Year 2026.
“Thailand has given Chinese tourists visa-free stays on arrival for up to five months. Indonesia has taken similar measures by giving special passes. This is something we have to look into,” Lee said at a briefing on SERC’s quarterly economic tracker report today.
SERC’s findings for 2019 revealed that international tourists dedicated a substantial portion of their expenditures to shopping, accounting for 33.1% of their overall spending, amounting to nearly RM28.9 billion.
Lee also urged the government to encourage the setting up of eco-friendly hotels and introduce a green-rating system for them, with preferential tax rates for properties which successfully apply this initiative.
“As of Sept 15, only seven hotels were rated as ‘green hotels’ on the tourism, arts and culture ministry’s website. There is also not enough done to promote green hotels,” he said.
SERC also highlighted several other tourism-related issues, such as congestion at airports and the state of disrepair of many tourist spots and attractions.
To alleviate congestion, it recommended streamlining immigration checkpoints through measures such as increasing the number of counters and electronic passport gates, reducing the duration of customs inspection procedures, and deploying more officers to assist tourists efficiently.
Taking inspiration from the Narita Airport model in Japan, the goal is to ensure that visitors experience wait times of no more than 15 minutes.
To revitalise rundown attractions, it urged the government to increase funding for rehabilitation efforts and foster partnerships with the private sector to undertake necessary repairs and refurbishments.
The other proposed measures include a large-scale regional festival to promote the arts scene, the development of a mobile application providing essential information for tourists, and the implementation of a double tax deduction scheme for advertising and promotional expenses, with a cap of 3% of the total turnover.