Beijing travel ban over Wuhan virus will cripple tourism industry, says Matta

More than 1.5 million tourists from China visited Malaysia in the first half of 2019 but industry players fear there will be a sharp drop in arrivals following China’s ban on internationl group travel. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: Two travel associations fear Beijing’s ban on international group travel to contain the deadly coronavirus outbreak will hit the nation’s tourism industry hard.

Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) president Tan Kok Liang said agents had been receiving a lot of cancellations, although he did not have the actual number.

As of now, Tan said, inbound and outbound tourism between Malaysia and China have been severely affected.

“We hope the situation will be contained and will only be for the short term, otherwise the repercussions will be more severe as it will affect the global tourism,” he told FMT.

Tan called on hotels, airline operators, tour operators and other service providers to be flexible with their cancellation policies.

According to Tourism Malaysia, there were 1.55 million tourists from China to Malaysia in the first half of 2019. In 2018, Malaysia welcomed 2.94 million Chinese tourists to the country.

Meanwhile, Sabah Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Satta) chairman Winston Liaw, said Beijing’s ban would have a huge impact on the tourism industry in the state.

Chinese nationals, he said, make up for 45% of the estimated 1.45 million international tourists to the East Malaysian state.

“We expect a sharp drop in the coming months,” he said when contacted.

Liaw warned that some agents who depended fully on Chinese arrivals might not see a single customer from China, adding that many tour agencies would face financial difficulties.

He went on to urge the government to assist industry players to overcome “this difficult period”.

Liaw, however, said that local tour operators should take this opportunity to diversify their marketing targets and woo tourists from Europe and North America as well as the domestic market.

He said this would enable them to reduce their dependency on the Chinese market.

“Depending on just one market is very risky.”