MALAYSIA’S TOURISM INDUSTRY REELS IN SHOCK – SABAH THE WORST HIT AS CHINESE TOURISTS CANCEL EN-MASSE AMID CHINA’S OWN TRAVEL BAN

MALAYSIAN tours groups are facing severe losses because of cancellations from Chinese visitors as a result of travel bans to contain the Wuhan virus outbreak.

China has imposed total and partial lockdowns on 15 cities affecting about 57 million people as the government races to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

And Malaysia is one of the countries affected by this lockdown as about 80% of Chinese tour groups have cancelled their reservations here, tour industry associations told The Malaysian Insight.

The associations are also pleading with hoteliers and logistics companies to allow refunds from these cancellations, said Malaysian Inbound Tourism Association (Mita) chairman Uzaidi Udani.

“As of February 1, there are no appointments from Chinese tour groups,” Uzaidi told The Malaysian Insight.

Malaysian Chinese Tourism Association (MCTA) president Albert Tan Sam Soon said the last tour groups from China arrived in Malaysia on January 23 and 24.

No tour groups came starting on Monday.

Malaysia is among a handful of nations trying to contain an outbreak of the novel coronavirus from Wuhan province in China that has infected more than 4,000 and killed more than 106 in China.

Putrajaya confirmed that Malaysia has four cases, all of them Chinese nationals, who entered the country on holiday.

Commuters wearing masks while queuing to take a taxi at the Beijing railway station. China has imposed total and partial lockdowns on 15 cities in a bid to stop the spread of a deadly virus which began in Wuhan. – AFP pic, January 29, 2020.
Commuters wearing masks while queuing to take a taxi at the Beijing railway station. China has imposed total and partial lockdowns on 15 cities in a bid to stop the spread of a deadly virus which began in Wuhan. – AFP pic, January 29, 2020.

Uzaidi said industry players will be meeting the Tourism Ministry to discuss the situation and ask for assistance to deal with losses from the cancellations.

More than 100 tour groups have been cancelled, affecting 60 travel agencies and 20 tour bus operators.

Tan of MCTA said affected travel agencies are currently busy discussing possible refunds with hotels, tour bus companies and restaurants.

“Some hoteliers have agreed to refunds, some are willing to accommodate and hold the reserved rooms until tourists can return to Malaysia.”

MCTA and MITA were confident that tourists will return to Malaysia once the outbreak clears.

Tourism Minister Mohammadin Ketapi in his first comments on the issue yesterday said he was confident that Malaysia can still achieve its target of 30 million visitors in conjunction with Visit Malaysia Year 2020.

“The target is still 30 million. If there’s a small impact, it will be from Wuhan. But Australians or the English will still come.

“If we are affected, it’s only a little bit but we still have enough strategies to achieve this target,” said Mohammadin.

The virus has caused global concern because of its similarity to the SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, pathogen, which killed hundreds across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002 and 2003.

Sabah hardest hit by virus outbreak

SABAH has been hardest hit by the coronavirus outbreak as hotels in this Borneo state, popular among Chinese tourists, have reported 30% to 60% cancellations, said the Malaysia Association of Hotels (MAH).

Initial indications show that Sabah will be the worst affected followed by Johor, Malacca, Negri Sembilan (Port Dickson), Perak (Ipoh), Penang, Kuala Lumpur and Selangor, CEO Yap Lip Seng told The Malaysian Insight.

These states will see numerous group cancellations as well as some free independent traveller cancellations.

Sabah is also well known for its flora and fauna, diverse culture, sunny beaches and seafood.

“Room cancellations run up from single digits to the hundreds, depending on size of hotels and their dependency on the China market.  

“Losses documented so far range from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands, particularly in Kota Kinabalu, for cancellations up to the end of February 2020.”

Yap said many hotels have agreed to process refunds and waive cancellation fees in view of the unforeseen circumstances.

Affected agents are also advised to approach the respective hotels.

Malaysia Association of Hotels CEO Yap Lip Seng says hotel losses up to the end of February range from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands, particularly in Kota Kinabalu. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, January 29, 2020.
Malaysia Association of Hotels CEO Yap Lip Seng says hotel losses up to the end of February range from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands, particularly in Kota Kinabalu. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, January 29, 2020.

Hotels have taken precautionary measures by ensuring sanitising facilities for both guests and employees are in place. Additionally, screening of guests will also be carried out in critical areas.

“Hotels are taking all needed measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and will support those by the government.

“We are confident that screening at all access points of the country will be effective.

“We were also briefed that airports and airlines are doing the same to prevent the spread,” Yap said, adding that the outbreak is likely to affect Visit Malaysia 2020 but the industry is ready to recover when the time comes.

A valuable lesson could be taken from the situation to diversify market segments, he said.

“At the moment, the industry is taking initiatives to capitalise on other arrivals and with the rich resources and attractions that Malaysia offers, we are confident that we can gain from other markets, not just China.”

On Sunday, Putrajaya announced a temporary suspension of visas for visitors from Hubei province, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak.

China has imposed a lockdown on 15 of its cities, affecting about 57 million people as the government races to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Malaysia is one of the countries affected by this lockdown as about 80% of Chinese tour groups have cancelled their reservations here, tour industry associations told The Malaysian Insight.

The viral outbreak has killed more than 106 people in China, with Hubei recording 24 fatalities, while nationwide cases have exceeded 4,500.

THE MALAYSIAN INSIGHT

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