KOTA KINABALU, Nov 27 — Sabah has lauded the federal government’s decision to allow 30-day visa-free entry for China and India travellers beginning next month.

Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor said it will help Sabah achieve its target of 2.2 million tourist arrivals this year.

It is currently at 85 per cent of its target, with one more month left in the year.

“I have mentioned before — now that normalcy has returned to the tourism industry, the state government has launched a tourism recovery campaign to attract tourists back to Sabah,” he said.

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Sabah’s all-time-high tourism arrivals was 4.2 million in 2019, with about a third of international arrivals from China.

Hajiji said that with the introduction of the 30-day visa-free entry policy for visitors from the world’s two most populous countries, it would help to speed up the recovery process for the tourism sector.

“We hope to see more air connectivity to increase visitor arrivals to Sabah,” he said.

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Kota Kinabalu is currently connected to eight major Chinese cities — Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Wuhan, Macau and Hong Kong — with 63 weekly flights and seating capacity of 11,360.

Records from January to September this year showed the number of arrivals from China as 45,801 compared to only 4,162 arrivals in the same period last year.

For Indian arrivals to Sabah, there had been an upward trend with 4,176 arrivals up to September this year compared to 2,734 in the same period last year.

Meanwhile, it was reported that China had decided to offer visa-free entry to travellers holding ordinary passports from Malaysia, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain from December 1, 2023, to November 30, 2024.

China Foreign Ministry spokesman Mao Ning said that citizens from Malaysia and the other European countries are able to enter China without a visa and to stay for no more than 15 days for business, tourism, family visits and transit purposes.