KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 11 ― The government is aiming to optimise flight connectivity between Malaysia and China through enhanced direct and transit flights as well as chartered flights to promote exchanges and deepen interaction between Muslim communities in both countries.
Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing said following negotiations with a number of airlines, the ministry is expected to launch a round-trip flight from Xi’an to Kuala Lumpur in March, and a chartered flight from Urumqi to Kuala Lumpur in May or July this year at the latest.
“China has always been among a key tourist source market for Malaysia, and the ministry is putting in efforts to expand the opportunities here for our tourism industry. As one of the pioneering Muslim-friendly destinations, we also recognise the immense potential of the untapped Muslim market in China.
“Malaysia is honoured to have earned a reputation as a Muslim-friendly tourism and hospitality ecosystem brand and has been ranked first in the Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI) 2023 for the eighth consecutive time,” he said in his speech at the Imam Fam Trip: Discover Muslim-Friendly Malaysia welcome dinner reception here yesterday.
The effort is also in addition to the recently announced Malaysian visa liberalisation plans which to facilitate easy entry for international tourists including Chinese travellers.
Tiong said the ministry is committed to creating a regional ‘Umrah Hub’ in Malaysia.
“Soon enough, Muslim brothers and sisters, not just from China, but from Southeast Asia and other regions too will have the opportunity to explore Malaysia’s nature, traditional and modern attractions before or after performing their umrah,” he said.
On the Imam Fam Trip, Tiong said the timing is perfect as the year 2024 also marks the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and Malaysia.
“Celebrating five long decades of cultural exchange and understanding, which is reflected in the itinerary of this trip. The imams will have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the culture, food and lifestyle of Malaysian Muslims.
“I am confident that the efforts put in by the ITC (Islamic Tourism Centre) and the MICA (Malaysian Inbound Chinese Association) will be the beginning of more collaboration between industry organisations.
“Our industry players have the expertise, knowledge and resources to explore other areas in the large and growing Muslim tourism market,” he said.
The minister also hopes that through this platform, the ministry would able to attract 1.5 million Muslim tourists from China this year. ― Bernama