The travel trade in Malaysia has welcomed the latest initiative to allow Indian nationals living outside India to travel to the country without the need for a visa.

“It is certainly a move in the right direction, which is long overdue but never too late,” said MATTA president Datuk Hamzah Rahmat. However he questioned why the concession was being limited to Indian nationals living overseas only.

“They’re holding the same passports as Indians living in India. So how do we differentiate between the two categories?”

Hamzah said the visa-free facility for Chinese nationals visiting Malaysia is a success with increased arrivals, and the same should be extended to all Indian nationals.

“We should have the same heart and mind with India as we have with China. We must also be aware that 60% of the current Indian population is below the age of 30 – a very great potential for the travel market,” he added.

India is among Malaysia’s top 10 countries in terms of total tourist arrivals. In 2015 there were 722,141 arrivals from India, and the number for last year was estimated at about one million.

The visa-free facility was announced in Doha by Malaysia’s deputy prime minister, Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, during his official visit to Qatar.

The DPM said the removal of the visa requirement would attract some 500,000 Indian nationals currently in Qatar as businessmen, professionals and technical experts.

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