KOTA KINABALU: Speedier processing time for free visa to Chinese tourists can woo them back to Sabah.
Assistant Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Pang Yuk Ming, said there is a need to simplify or shorten the processing period to 24 hours or if possible forgo the visa application to boost the arrival of Chinese tourists here.
“Now it takes one week for the Chinese to apply for travel visa and it can only be done in Shanghai, Guangzhou, Kunming and Beijing,” he said.
“Perhaps we can make full use of the online facilities to process the applications but again we need to upgrade our system but the investment we put in will surely pay off especially in tourism,” he said after witnessing the setting up of the pro tem committee of Sabah Tourism Federation (STF) at the Airworld Tour office in Api-Api centre yesterday.
The pro tem committee was led by Dato’ Seri Winston Liaw as president and he is also the chairman of Sabah Association of Tour &Travel Agents.
Pang said the concern he highlighted was feedbacks received from the tour operators in China who requested for the visa application processing time to be make quicker because the Chinese especially in Guangzhou like to decide their holidays in the last minute unlike the Westerners who planned few months ahead before travelling.
“So whether you like it or not, the Chinese make up the numbers for the arrival of tourists in Sabah and they contributed significantly in the first four months of last year if not our tourism industry could had been worst as we suffered a drop of 50 per cent in the total arrivals from May to December,” stated Pang.
He said there is a lot of work need to be done and the Tourism Ministry will restart its promotion campaign in China soon after being quiet for some time to show respect to the families who lost their loved ones during the air accidents last year.
Pang also welcomed the arrival of the first consul-general of the People Republic of China in Kota Kinabalu Chen Peijie recently which had a big impact on the arrival of tourists from China.
“The potential of charter flights is great and they are seasonal where it is only mounted during the Chinese New Year, China National Day and their long holidays between June and August,” said Pang.
He said the various unfortunate incidents had also affected the charter flights service which dropped from 268 flights in 2013 to some 120 last year.
“Now the number is lower than last year for this coming Chinese New Year and so far we only have 12 confirmations with four from Chengdu, two from Changsha and three each from Hangzhou and Nanjing which is a stark contrast compared to the same period last year,” disclosed Pang.
Winston hoped the increasing number of arrivals from Korea, Japan and United Kingdom in recent months will help stimulate the Chinese market as it is indication that Sabah is a safe place to visit.
Despite the set-back, he was optimistic the tourism industry in Sabah will turn around in the second half of this year as the feel good factor is returning soon.- Sayangsabah