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Inside the Move: Why Malaysia, Thailand are allowing visa-free travel for desi tourists?



Dreaming of a holiday escape for the festive season? Malaysia is extending a warm invitation, and awaiting your arrival. Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim just made a groundbreaking announcement: Starting December 1st, visas are history.

Malaysia has become the fourth country, following Sri Lanka, Vietnam, and Thailand, to announce visa-free entry for tourists. Prime Minister Ibrahim affirmed, “Effective 1 December, we will introduce an additional provision granting 30 days of visa exemption for citizens of India and China visiting Malaysia.”

This strategic decision aims to stimulate tourism and consequently drive economic growth. It follows Anwar’s prior declaration last month, outlining intentions to enhance visa provisions in the upcoming year, particularly targeting the influx of tourists and investors, with a specific emphasis on individuals from India and China.

But why is it that countries like Malaysia, and others are providing visa-free travel to Indians?

What’s the reason behind such a move?

Nations like Malaysia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and others contemplate or grant visa-free travel to Indians for several reasons.

Taking Malaysia as an example, the facilitation of visa-free entry aims to streamline travel procedures, attracting a growing number of tourists and bolstering the country’s economy.

By eliminating visa requirements, Malaysia aspires to entice more Indian tourists. According to official data, China and India stand as the fourth and fifth-largest tourist contributors to Malaysia, respectively.

Statistics indicate that Malaysia welcomed 9.16 million tourists between January and June this year, with 498,540 arrivals from China and 283,885 from India. This marks a significant contrast to 1.5 million arrivals from China and 354,486 from India during the same period in 2019, before the onset of the pandemic.

The Malaysian government anticipates that an increase in Indian tourist arrivals will lead to heightened expenditures, providing a much-needed impetus to its economy.

Arshdeep Anand, director of Holiday Moods Adventures added to Free Press Journal that “Indians are big spenders and destinations have come to realise this.”

Rajeev Kale, president and country head for holidays, MICE and visa at Thomas Cook, also was quoted as telling The Economic Times, “Indians are travelling like never before,” adding that the company has seen a 200 per cent surge in demand for the January-June period this year versus the year earlier.

There’s also another reason why countries are granting visa-free travel to Indians. Currently, Indians must endure a long wait for Schengen and US visas. Realising this, the countries are luring potential travellers to their countries.

Which countries are granting visa-free travel to Indians?


In recent developments, various nations have unveiled visa waivers for Indian nationals, facilitating seamless travel experiences. Just a few weeks back, Thailand made a noteworthy announcement, permitting entry for Indian citizens into the Asian country without the need for a visa, effective from 10 November. This provision, valid until 10 May 2024, grants Indian tourists a 30-day stay in Thailand specifically for tourism-related activities.

Similarly, Sri Lanka introduced a visa-free entry initiative targeting visitors from India as part of a pilot project aimed at reviving tourism in the island nation facing debt constraints, scheduled until 31 March 2024. Alongside Indian tourists, travelers from six additional countries—China, Russia, Malaysia, Japan, Indonesia, and Thailand—will also benefit from visa-free visits to Sri Lanka during this period.

According to reports, Vietnam is deliberating the prospect of granting short-term visa waivers to Indian travelers as part of an initiative to invigorate tourism. Vietnamese news agency VnExpress conveyed that Nguyen Van Hung, Vietnam’s Minister of Culture, Sports, and Tourism, advocated for waivers for key markets like China and India to drive the recovery of tourism. This proposal was announced on 22 November during a conference chaired by Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh.

Additionally, Malaysia recently announced the exemption of visas for Indian nationals, aiming to promote tourism within the country. In July, a report highlighted that Indians could explore 57 destinations without the necessity of a visa.

Apart from countries implementing visa waivers, some have simplified the visa application process. For example, Australia has made substantial efforts to streamline and expedite visa applications for Indian travelers. Similarly, Russia has initiated the issuance of electronic visas (e-visas) to Indian passport holders, a move intended to facilitate quicker travel approvals for various purposes, including tourism, business trips, and personal visits.

Fueled by Wanderlust, Empowered by strong Economy

A robust economy, as India holds the position as the fifth-largest economy globally, following the US, China, Germany, and Japan, significantly contributes to the growing aspiration among Indians to explore the world.

Omri Morgenshtern, the CEO of Agoda, a travel and booking website, attributes this surge in travel partially to the geographical proximity between countries and India. Additionally, the accessibility provided by low-cost carriers has made foreign holidays more attainable for a larger segment of the Indian population.

However, diverging from this perspective, one news report presents an alternative view regarding the motivations driving Indians’ travel aspirations. According to a leisure report from, it suggests that for a vast majority of Indians, the primary driving force behind their travels is not necessarily the exploration of new destinations but rather the pursuit of social status.

Pack your bags and head for an unforgettable Malaysian adventure this Christmas-New Year.