30% of Chinese tourists cancel bookings to Malaysia: Minister

A tourist walks past a signboard saying "Pray for MH370" in front of the Kuala Lumpur City Center (KLCC) on March 14, 2014. Close to 30 per cent of Chinese tourists have cancelled their bookings to visit Malaysia this year since the disappearance of
A tourist walks past a signboard saying "Pray for MH370" in front of the Kuala Lumpur City Center (KLCC) on March 14, 2014. Close to 30 per cent of Chinese tourists have cancelled their bookings to visit Malaysia this year since the disappearance of Flight MH370, cutting down potential revenue for the local tourism industry. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

PUTRAJAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Close to 30 per cent of Chinese tourists have cancelled their bookings to visit Malaysia this year since the disappearance of Flight MH370, cutting down potential revenue for the local tourism industry.

This is according to data collected by the Malaysia Inbound Tourism Association which manages a majority of the Chinese tourist arrivals in the country through its network of some 70 companies.

Chinese tourists spent an average of RM2,800 (S$1,084) each in Malaysia, and at least 10,000 of them had cancelled their trip, said Tourism Malaysia chairman Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen.

"Due to the promotion of Visit Malaysia Year (VMY) 2014, many had initially made preparations to visit Malaysia in the second half of this year but we have received many cancellations since the MH370 incident.

"In January, we even had a 25 per cent increase in the number of Chinese tourist arrivals," Dr Ng said at a press conference after meeting industry players here on Thursday.

Apart from the MH370 incident on March 8, the abduction of a Chinese tourist by armed men at the Singamata Reef Resort off Semporna in Sabah on April 2 also contributed to a drop in tourist arrivals from Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Dr Ng said the biggest impact of potential revenue loss from Chinese tourists involved those originating from major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.

She said China Southern Airlines, which had three flights connecting Kuala Lumpur and China daily, would reduce the frequency to one flight per day starting next month, joining Xiamen Airlines, which had also scrapped plans to increase flights connecting both countries.

Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz had earlier called for the VMY 2014 road show in China to be shelved to show the government's sympathy over the MH370 tragedy, which involved 153 Chinese nationals on board.