MELAKA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Tourist arrivals to Melaka, especially from Singapore, declined by an estimated 28 per cent during the 2018 year-end peak period, and a tourism-based non-governmental organisation (NGO) claims this is mainly due to the recent spate of rallies and racially-tinged speeches by opposition leaders and Malay rights groups in the Klang Valley.
President of Melaka Tourism Business Club (MTBC) Chew Chert Fong said feedback based on hotel occupancy and from local tourism players showed that tourist arrivals peaked from Dec 22 to Dec 28, a far cry from previous years where holidaying started by the second week of the school break in November.
"The normal traffic congestion visible during the previous school holidays was not obvious in 2018 and only peaked during the Yuletide season, concentrated on the Bandar Hilir area."
"MTBC could safely surmise that there was a significant drop in tourist arrivals based on the pointers garnered from local tourism players," he said, after sponsoring stationery for poor pupils in Semabok here on Wednesday (Jan 2).
Mr Chew said the low arrivals to Melaka could be linked to the remarks made by certain leaders of NGOs and political parties on race and religion.
"Such adverse speeches could affect Melaka as one of the tourism hubs, especially when Singaporeans would keep away from holidaying here."
"Local tourism players were also hit by the low arrivals and we need to woo big spenders," he said.
Mr Chew said the tourism arrivals during the 2018 school break were mostly domestic holidaymakers.
"Furthermore, the number of vehicles entering toll plazas shouldn't be made a barometer to determine the figure on arrivals - we need realistic statistics like hotel occupancy rates and tourist receipts," he said.
Mr Chew said Melaka Chief Minister Adly Zahari is trying hard to woo tourists by going out into the field and even distributing pamphlets along the roadside to bring in the desired numbers in conjunction with Visit Melaka Year 2019 (VMY19).
"The Chief Minister is an open-minded leader, but his hands are tied if racially toned gatherings outside the state continue to take place."
"There were not any elements of racism in Melaka but unfavourable events in the Klang Valley could hit Melaka's tourism industry," he said, adding that MTBC will work doubly hard and support the Chief Minister to attract tourists to the state.
Provocative statements made in the run-up to several rallies organised by Malay political parties and NGOs, such as the anti-Icerd rally on Dec 8, as well as the one to honour fireman Mohammad Adib Mohd Kassim on Dec 25, have caused concern.
Earlier, Mr Adly said Melaka received 14.7 million tourists from January to October 2018, of which 5.6 million people, or 38.59 per cent, were foreigners.
He said efforts are being made to help elevate the state tourism industry to a higher level.
Mr Adly also encouraged everyone to provide continuous cooperation and support to the state government to ensure the success of VMY19 by applying the value of "Think Tourism and Act Tourism".