Arrivals from India have been climbing steadily, thanks to the stable rupee, friendlier visa polices, and new destinations.
The Malaysian government has placed more emphasis on attracting both the leisure and business events markets from India by rolling out visa-friendly policies, as well as introducing new Malaysian destinations.
The e-visa facility was first introduced by the Malaysian government in 2016. After which, they took it a step further and waived the Rs1,000 (US$16) visa fee, as well as reduced the visa processing fee from Rs5,500 to Rs1,600. In April 2017, a multiple-entry visa for Indian tourists was launched, making it more convenient for travellers to combine mutli-country tours.
In addition, the cash crunch crisis in November 2016 ‚Äď resulting from the Indian government‚Äôs move to demonetise its Rs500 and Rs1,000 currency ‚Äď came to an end.
As a result, hoteliers and local DMCs have reported seeing an increased MICE business from India.
Wilfred Yeo, group director of business development of Sunway Hotels & Resorts, said: ‚ÄúWe foresee that the Indian business events segment will grow and become one of our biggest segments. We are currently receiving three to five groups from India on a monthly basis. Since 2015, we have witnessed a 15 per cent year-on-year growth in room nights.‚ÄĚ
Luxury Tours Malaysia‚Äôs senior manager, Arokia Das, pointed out that the introduction of multiple entry visa has helped his business.
He elaborated: ‚ÄúPrior to the introduction of the multiple-entry visa, Indian organisers used to fly to Bali on Malindo Air and transited in Kuala Lumpur. Since the visa was introduced, we‚Äôve had business from a few Indian MICE organisers who organised a one- or two-night post conference tour in Kuala Lumpur.
‚ÄúThey will have the groups stay in the city, close to the shopping malls, and the itinerary will usually include a half-day city tour.‚ÄĚ
Arokia further revealed that in July, his company saw a 30 per cent increase year-on-year for business events from India. He attributed this to better air connectivity, which has helped Kuala Lumpur remain a popular destination for the Indian meetings and incentives market.
Similarly for Tourland Travel, managing director, A Aruldas, said that MICE business from India has seen a 15 per cent increase year-on-year.
‚ÄúIncentive events move on a rotational basis and many organisers are rotating their events back to Malaysia,‚ÄĚ he said.
He said this was partly due to the weak ringgit against the US dollar ‚Äď while the Indian rupee had strengthened ‚Äď which made hotel rates in Malaysia more attractive.
Another trend Aruldas noticed in 2016 were that business events organisers were more willing to spend on better quality hotels and F&B due to the exchange rates.
As well, tour companies have been promoting other destinations around Malaysia.
For instance, Luxury Tours Malaysia has been promoting Penang as a new venue for meetings and incentives, as the state has a brand new meeting venue ‚Äď¬† the Setia SPICE Convention Centre ‚Äď and new products that are good for incentives.
‚ÄúIt is easy to organise events in Penang as the Penang Convention & Exhibition Bureau is willing to help us get permission from relevant bodies to use some historical buildings as venues for gala dinners,‚ÄĚ he added.
For Tourland Travel, Aruldas revealed that Langkawi did well as an incentive destination last year.
He explained: ‚ÄúLangkawi has grown in popularity and demand is second to Kuala Lumpur. It has good hotel facilities, and getting Indian food is not an issue.‚ÄĚ
Aruldas is also awaiting the end-year opening of the 20th Century Fox World theme park, as he believes the attraction will become a new destination for business events in terms of outdoor venues for themed dinners, for events held at Resorts World Genting.
Meanwhile, Nanda Kumar, managing director of Hidden Asia Travel & Tours, is promoting Perak to the Indian incentive market as the Movie Animation Park Studios (MAPS) theme park recently opened in June.
He said that MAPS, together with The Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat, can form part of an itinerary for incentive delegates where Ipoh, the state capital of Perak, is combined with either Penang or Kuala Lumpur.