• Ancom and ManagePay are teaming up to promote Malaysian tourism to Chinese travelers.

Ancom and ManagePay are teaming up to promote Malaysian tourism to Chinese travelers. (Photo : Getty Images)

Malaysia's tourism market is expecting three million Chinese tourists to visit the country this year.

According to Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz, the number of Chinese tourists that visited Malaysia in the first three months of this year has significantly increased compared with the numbers for the same period last year.

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Nazri said the increase is “encouraging,” adding that Sabah was the top choice destination for Chinese tourists because of a variety of factors including accessibility.

“Chinese tourists are drawn to Sabah because of its blue skies, beaches, warm seas, food, people, culture and accessibility. It's also located within a short distance from say, Hong Kong, which is three and a half hours away by flight. It takes about the same to drive up to Penang from the Klang Valley. They (Chinese tourists) like it, and go on weekend getaways to Sabah," he said.

Following the launch of HARTAR, a new smart tourism digital mobile app, at the Malaysia Tourism Center on Thursday, Nazri told reporters that Chinese tourists visit Malaysia because the country provides easy access to durian, particularly the Musang King variety.

Due to its odor, durian is very difficult to export to China. Thus, accessibility to the fruit draws in tourists. Authorities are planning to build durian stalls in areas near hotels to make the fruit more accessible.

The minister is positive that by 2018, Malaysia would reach the four million mark for the number of Chinese tourist arrivals and hit the eight million mark in 2020.

The projections considered the two visa schemes launched by the government in 2016. The Entri, a special travel note, permits Chinese tourists to visit Malaysia for 15 days or less without the need for tourist visas. On the other hand, the eVisa is issued within a day to travelers who plan to stay between 15 and 30 days.

In line with the Belt and Road initiative, Malaysia is intensively working to draw more Chinese tourists to the country, Nazri said.

Commenting on the HARTAR, he said the app would assist in promoting Malaysian tourism by serving as a digital platform.

Last year, 26.7 million tourists visited Malaysia, giving the country an income of RM 82.1 billion, 18.8 percent higher than RM 69.1 billion in the previous year.

With their efforts in promoting Malaysian tourism, officials are confident that Chinese tourists will be attracted to the country.