Closing entertainment outlets at 1am will hurt tourism, government warned

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PETALING JAYA: The country’s largest representative body for the travel industry has warned that the strict enforcement of operating hours for entertainment outlets in Kuala Lumpur could have serious repercussions on tourism and businesses in the city.

The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) said last year, Kuala Lumpur attracted 12.29 million international tourists, ahead of cities such as Rome, Tokyo, Istanbul, Seoul, Miami, Barcelona and Shanghai.

Nonetheless, Matta president Tan Kok Liang told FMT, the night scene for tourists in Kuala Lumpur left “much to be desired”.

He cautioned that curtailing the operating hours of entertainment outlets would dampen visitors’ experience. This, in turn, could lead to tourists deciding not to return to the city, which would affect tourism receipts as well as the economy.

Tan was responding to recent remarks by Federal Territories Minister Khalid Samad, who said Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) would review the operating hours of several outlets that had been given special permission to open until 5am to cater to tourists. Khalid said the outlets had reportedly abused that privilege by allowing locals in as well.

Khalid also said entertainment outlets in the city would have to abide by the closing hours stated in their licence agreements beginning Jan 1, or face action. Many of these outlets are supposed to close at 1am.

The Amanah leader said this should be seen as a reminder to those in Kuala Lumpur to spend more time and money with their families rather than at entertainment outlets.

But Tan warned that the move could result in the city being seen as less tourist-friendly, which would affect visitor arrivals.

“The total number for the whole country dropped for the first nine months of this year,” he said, adding that the situation could be further affected by the introduction of the airport departure levy beginning Jan 1.

He said entertainment outlets were mostly frequented by high-spending tourists, including those who come to Kuala Lumpur for business meetings, incentive tours and conferences.

The tourism industry itself provides employment to many, he added.

“Closing entertainment outlets at 1am sharp may create a ripple effect on our tourism industry and affect our country’s economy,” he said.

DAP’s Bukit Bintang MP Fong Kui Lun also voiced concern over the possible repercussions of such a move, especially in his constituency where he said entertainment outlets were crucial to the local economy.

He said the move could also adversely affect other businesses which cater to tourists.

“I hope the government will not have a one-size-fits-all ruling. I can understand the rationale of limiting the operating hours of outlets close to residential areas,” he said.

But entertainment outlets in isolated areas or tourism hot spots should be allowed to stay open longer, he added.

Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs chief executive Ali Salman said existing rules and regulations on operating hours for entertainment outlets should be respected and enforced.

He added that forms of entertainment which cause harm to others, such as being a nuisance to neighbourhoods, should be checked and controlled.

But in principle, he said, people should be allowed to decide whether to spend time at home or at entertainment outlets, with or without their families.

“It is not the job of the government to do moral policing or force specific behaviour.”