Outbound travel from India to the south east Asian destination of Malaysia is expected to see a dip of 20 to 40 per cent with the Malaysian government cancelling the visa-on- arrival facility for Indian travellers, effective August 1.
The Malaysian government has cited large-scale abuse of the facility by Indian travellers who overstay and security concerns as reasons for the withdrawal. The Malaysian tourism board had set a target of 500,000 visitors from India for this year which assumes a growth of 51 per cent over last year's 420,000 Indian visitors.
Travel trade analysts see the move directly impacting outbound travel vis-a-vis India and also Malaysia losing to neighbouring south-eastern states like Thailand, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka, Mauritius and even Singapore as Indian holiday-goers' destinations.
"There are countries like Thailand that are value-for-money and do not have restrictive visa compliance conditions," said Karl Dantas, a city-based travel consultant.
Malaysia is number three in the pecking order in terms of Indians travelling to south east Asia (Singapore is number one followed by Thailand) and has 25 per cent of the market.
Over the past few years, Malaysian travel from India has been growing largely due to hassle-free visa norms and the country positioning itself as a value-for-money destination. Travel agents collectively perceive a fall in numbers, more so in the leisure travel segment which accounts for 70 per cent of travel from India to Malaysia.
"We see an immediate drop of at least 30 per cent in the current bookings and customers want to add extra nights to Thailand," Dantas added. Travel agents are also worried that the move would impact business.
A couple of years ago, the Malaysian government had eased visa norms.
"Getting a Malaysian visa was back-breaking earlier. The government eased the norms and there was a considerable jump in the numbers visiting Malaysia. Now, again, if the Malaysian government wants to do away the visa-on-arrival facility, it will have to bear the consequences. The decline will start from Diwali onwards," said Ajay Prakash, national general secretary, Travel Agents Federation of India.
But the Malaysian government says there will be little impact. "The number of people using the visa-on-arrival is comparatively small. The number of bonafide travel numbers will go up and also procuring the visa will be easy as we can give it in three working days," said P Manoharan, director (India), Tourism Malaysia.
He added that the earlier provision of visa-on-arrival did not guarantee a valid entry to the country.