THE first two weeks of Chinese New Year should have seen George Town, Penang, teeming with tourists from China, but the coronavirus outbreak has resulted in a drastic drop in visitors to the Unesco world heritage city.
With most Malaysians back at work by now, Chinese visitors and their spending power are missed from popular tourist spots, such as the famous murals on Armenian Street.
Traders said none of them is renting bicycles to go about the city, or sample traditional foods and snacks.
Evans Cheah, 36, who sells snacks near Lebuh Aceh Mosque, said his business is down by about 30% compared with the usual period at the start of the year.
“After the virus outbreak (in late December), sales worsened and fell by 20%, 30%,” he told The Malaysian Insight at his shop.
The start of the year is usually a busy period for traders as Chinese tourists vacation for longer periods during the spring festival, or CNY.
Cheah, who also runs an eatery selling desserts, said sales have never been this bad, not even during the major influenza A outbreak in Malaysia in 2009.
Fruit juice seller Johnny Ooi feels it is not just tourists from China who are staying away this season, but visitors from other countries as well.
“George Town seems quieter this time. The situation is quiet unlike in previous months.
“Although the outbreak is relatively new, the impact on traders here is already felt,” he said, adding that his sales have dropped 30% since the viral outbreak.
A bicycle and motorcycle rental operator, who did not want to give his name, said he still has European and local tourists renting bikes to cycle around the heritage city.
He said despite a slight drop in business, he could “still survive” a bit better than traders selling food and drinks.
“There aren’t any Chinese tourists at the moment, but there are still tourists from Europe, and locals.”
His rentals are priced from RM8 to RM30 for a bicycle or motorcycle.
Health exco Dr Afif Bahardin has said the state Health Department is conducting temperature checks on all visitors arriving at Penang airport.
Tourism exco Yeoh Soon Hin said he does not expect the drop in tourist numbers to last too long.
“The situation has caused concern for the local tourism industry, but I believe it won’t be for the long term.
“We will take precautions, and continue tourism promotion efforts. We can’t stop these, as we have to look at the long-term benefits.”
The government has not banned flights from China, but there have been no arrivals from Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak, since January 23, the same day Beijing put the city on lockdown to contain the spread of the virus.
A man who had travelled to Singapore for a meeting attended by delegates from China has become the first Malaysian to be confirmed infected.
The 41-year-old from Selangor, who fell ill and went to hospital six days after his return, has been placed in an isolation ward.
He tested positive on Monday.
The number of positive cases in Malaysia as of yesterday stood at 10.
Resorts World Genting loses all China tours for February
ALL tour bookings from China at Resorts World Genting and at Awana Hotel have been cancelled for February, the company said in a statement today.
However, the resorts continue to operate as normal, while taking preventive measures against the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The resorts have introduced infrared thermal scanning at all skyways, checkpoints, main entrances to various facilities and workers entrances.
Guest who have travelled abroad recently and are sick will be sent to a designated holding room and will receive free medical treatment, the company added in a notice on its website.
Sanitising gel has also been placed around the resort’s property in both public areas and back of house, while the frequency of scheduled cleaning has been increased throughout the resort.
“Lift buttons throughout the resort will also be cleaned frequently,” it said, adding that health advice and safety precaution tips are also flashed on LED screens and notice boards across the resort.
“A response team, consisting of senior management, has been set up to monitor the situation twice a day to implement precautionary measures when and where necessary,” the company added.
THE MALAYSIAN INSIGHT