Tourism Ministry to station Mandarin-speaking officers at country’s international airports

Tiong said this is to help travellers from China who might have a poor command of English and do not understand Malay.- Photo by Chimon Upon

KUCHING (Jan 8):  The Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry (Motac) will station Mandarin-speaking officers at all international airports in the country, said its minister Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing.

In a statement posted on his Facebook page today, he said this is to help travellers from China who may have a poor command of English and do not understand Malay.

“The ministry will coordinate this effort with international airport management nationwide and the Customs Department.

“This is to ensure everything is prepared at the country’s entry points, in turn easing the entry process for travellers, especially from China,” he said.

According to him, Motac has also proposed measures to ease the entry of Chinese tourists not only to facilitate the movement, but also shorten the arrival process.

“China has closed its border for over three years. Now, a large number of travellers from China are expected to enter our country to travel.

“To better receive and welcome the arrival of Chinese tourists, Motac proposes to ease their entry at international airports.

“In addition to speeding up the customs inspection without affecting travellers from other countries, this step can also highlight Malaysia’s friendly nature in welcoming travellers from China,” he said.

Tiong also expressed his appreciation to the Immigration Department for agreeing to ease, simplify and speed up the entry process for travellers entering the country, as well as the Customs Department for speeding up the customs inspection process.

The Bintulu MP assured that the health and safety of travellers from China remain a priority following Malaysia’s move to tighten standard operating procedures (SOP).

Meanwhile, in a statement issued yesterday, Tiong said it is neither appropriate nor effective for now to tighten the SOP for the entry of travellers from other countries, including China.

He assured Malaysians that the people’s safety and health would remain a priority for the ministry but the entry of travellers from various countries including China was important to strike a balance with the people’s well-being and country’s economic interests.

“So far, we have retained the status quo and continued to monitor developments from time to time. If there is a change of situation and an urgent need, of course we will ensure a more stringent SOP,” he said.

He also cited neighbouring countries such as Indonesia, Thailand and Cambodia which have not tightened the entry of travellers from China.

At the same time, he said there are questions raised about the arrival of travellers from the United States, Japan, Korea and France which have also recorded high number of Covid-19 infections.

He pointed out based on facts, the United States recorded 99 million infections and 1.08 million deaths due to Covid-19 while China recorded 31,000 deaths with 10.16 million positive cases.

“Considering China’s population of 1.4 billion, the death rate due to the pandemic is 0.002 per cent. The number of cases of Covid-19 infection in Malaysia is 5.02 million with 0.7 per cent of deaths recorded,” he said.

He also said Malaysians are thankful the country’s Covid-19 situation can be considered to be under control although Malaysia had received travellers from around the world before this although they were from countries with high rate of Covid-19 infection cases.

“In fact, China has also passed the Covid-19 infection surge phase, so tightening the existing SOP is not appropriate and effective for now,” he said.

He said the RM30 billion figure mentioned by him on Friday was to show the importance of tourism and its economic value specifically involving travellers from China.

On Friday, Tiong was reported to have said that Malaysia risked losing almost RM30 billion in tourism revenue this year if it discriminates against tourists from China.

“This is also in line with the expected increase in Chinese travellers to Malaysia, from three million in 2019 to about six million this year,” he said.

Tiong also said the issue of discrimination must be taken seriously, and he also made comparisons between other countries which are also likely to be high-risk for Covid-19 spread in the country.

“It is important to maintain diplomatic relations between Malaysia and foreign countries, especially our trading partners,” he said.

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