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LETTER | Benefits and dangers of one-month visa-free travel

LETTER | Malaysia is taking a risk with its one-month visa-free travel starting from Dec 1 for citizens from India and China now that there is a major resurgence in Covid-19 cases from 2,305 to 3,626 in the last one week in the country.

Having large crowds at shopping malls, wedding halls, educational institutions, restaurants, and at tourist attraction venues could lead to more such cases. The health authorities need to be on the alert.

With the visa-free incentive, year-end tourism can get a big boost as it is the preferred time for travelling with the family due to the festive holidays. The country is desperate to revive its sluggish economy and the tourism industry since the Covid-19 pandemic.

If there are very large numbers coming from these two countries, some precautions need to be taken by all - locals and foreigners - to help stop infections as there have been reports of new variants in China.

The current rainy spell also usually results in various respiratory ailments, especially flu, cough, runny nose, headache and fever.

There is a possibility of a large influx from China for the Chinese New Year. The local economy can benefit much if tourism arrivals and spending can increase exponentially.

The government has been thoughtful about this year-end incentive as tourist spending can stimulate the local small and medium-sized enterprises and service sector which have to pay the annual and festive bonuses for their workers.

A timely boost will somewhat help them in easing their financial woes. It is hoped that the visa-free incentive will have a wide-ranging economic and commercial multiplier and spillover effects that boost the morale of the people who have had to cope with a litany of economic woes such as the higher cost of living, lower consumption rates, reduced incomes, depreciation of the ringgit's value and unemployment.

Visa-free travel is a tourism booster for many countries whenever they feel there is a slowdown in international tourist arrivals. Many countries are now dependent on the tourist dollar. This is a good tool in the hands of policy-makers as tourism is now a multi-billion-dollar industry supporting and employing millions worldwide.

The main problem associated with visa-free travel, especially for a month or a limited period, is that it will be abused, and the authorities need to ensure that the tourists and travelers return to their countries.

Malaysia has had a major problem with this as quite a number of those coming as tourists do not return but become a liability. Some seek work and business opportunities and stay as long as they can.

The Home Ministry then has to take action against these culprits, some of whom may be involved in economic crimes, scams and swindling of unsuspecting people. The image of the country too could be affected by the severe action taken against these offenders when they are rounded up by the authorities.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.