Saturday, August 19, 2017

Malaysia tourism not clouded by visa fee hike

As overseas employment agencies boycott Malaysia as a destination for Myanmar migrant workers because of a tenfold rise in visa fees, Myanmar travel agents are also assessing the effect of the increase on tourism.

As of January 18, the cost of a Malaysian visa has risen from US$6 to $57, both for workers and tourists. All applicants must apply through a one-stop service centre.

The centre says travel companies have to submit a list of package-tour passengers to the Malaysian Embassy for approval before starting the visa application process.

U Thein Than, chair of Diamond Palace, a Myanmar recruitment firm designated as the sole service provider for the one-stop visa application process, suggested that the change was prompted by fears that Myanmar visitors would overstay in Malaysia.

“Sometimes visitors went to Malaysia on a social visa and failed to return to Myanmar. It will take some time to build trust,” he said, adding that tourism to Malaysia could decrease as a result of the visa fee increase.

Employment agency chiefs have already criticised the Malaysian move as “bullying”, and vowed not to send any more Myanmar workers to Malaysia, a major source of overseas jobs.

“As far as I know, in our long experience, we have no record of any tour customer overstaying in Malaysia,” said a spokesperson for Tour De Myanmar travel and tour company, adding, “This $51 increase in visa fees will be a burden to tourists.”

U Tun Lwe, managing director of Myanmar Golden Image travel and tours said it would not affect tourism even if fees increased because tour package prices would be adjusted.

“We don’t yet know what customer reaction might be because we haven’t yet made any visa applications through the one-stop centre,” he said.

Daw Wint Honey, manager of Gandawun Shwe Bagan travel and tours, said the fee increase might lead to fewer tours to Malaysia for Myanmar tourists.

“The Singapore visa is only $23. We don’t know yet whether how the Malaysian increase will affect the market because we haven’t organised any tours to Malaysia since the fee increase,” she said.