Sin Chew Daily
During the October 1 Golden Week in China, there were some seven million Chinese outbound tourists traveling out of the country. However, compared to the corresponding period last year, the number of Chinese tourists visiting Malaysia this year fell by a whopping 35%, a far cry from what the tourism ministry had anticipated.
Malaysia has always been one of the most favorite destinations for Chinese outbound tourists, and the drastic drop in tourist arrivals is anything but alarming.
The tourist industry is Malaysia's third largest foreign exchange earning contributor, after manufacturing and primary industries. Unfortunately we have missed the golden opportunity to woo the enormous army of Chinese tourists to our shores.
According to local travel industry operators, this is the first time we have seen a decline in the number of tourists from China during their Golden Week holidays. During the same period last year, some 180,000 Chinese nationals came to Malaysia for vacation, remarkably boosting the local hotel, retail and transport sectors.
It is a worrisome trend given the fact Malaysia is among the top ten holiday destinations for Chinese nationals and the number of Chinese outbound tourists is steadily increasing over the years.
If we are unable to grab a sizeable share of this lucrative pie, our tourist receipts as well as related industries will take the brunt, and this does not augur well for the country's economic development.
According to international media analysis, there is a strong correlation between China's diplomatic relations and the number of tourists in a particular country. For instance, fewer Chinese nationals are visiting the United States in the height of the Sino-American trade war, while Japan has emerged as the top destination for Chinese tourists this year following a warming of ties between the two countries
The decision by the new Pakatan Harapan government to cancel or review major Chinese investment projects has put a brake on the healthy growth of bilateral relationship, and this has probably suppressed the willingness of Chinese tourists to come to this country.
Despite the fact the government has anticipated a surge in the number of Chinese tourists to spearhead the local tourist industry, and the relevant operators have readied themselves for the influx, including stationing of airport staff well versed in Mandarin Chinese at KLIA, the arrival number remains disappointing. The tourism ministry needs to find out the reason for the stagnant growth.
Travel operators claim that the local tourist industry has been suffering since the 14th general elections, while the newly appointed tourism minister fails to introduce new strategies to stimulate the industry and lure foreign tourists. The government has also not provided new incentives to the related industries.
Lack of new elements in our tourist attractions is also to be blamed for a lack of returning tourists. Although Chinese tourists love Malaysia's diverse cultural heritage, gourmet food and natural scenery, we fail to come up with novel ideas and themes to woo them back.
The tourism ministry should seriously look into foreign tourists' needs and experiences instead of taking a passive stance to wait for them to come back.