KUALA LUMPUR: The Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) has caused business in hotels and airline companies to drop by between 30% and 40% this month.
The effect of SARS on tourism is worse than that inflicted by the Sept 11 attack, the Bali bombing and the war in Iraq, said Culture, Arts and Tourism Minister Datuk Kadir Sheikh Fadzir.
The (tourism) industry is badly hit by SARS because it affects countries in Asia, he said at the Parliament lobby yesterday.
However, he added, the impact of the war in Iraq was not too worrying because tourists from West Asia normally travelled during the summer or between June and September.
Earlier, in the Dewan Rakyat, Kadir said his ministry had to put on hold tourism campaigns in Europe for two to three weeks as the people there were now afraid to fly because of the SARS scare.
We are also postponing various tourism campaigns in China, he told Chong Eng (DAP Bukit Mertajam).
Kadir said the public should take advantage of the low hotel rates and visit local destinations.
At the moment, we are increasing promotions on domestic tourism through the Cuti-Cuti Malaysia campaign.
In another development, a representative of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office here said Taiwan was coping well with the outbreak of the virus and was a safe place to travel to.
Its information division director here Cecilia Chang Lan-hsin said that compared to Hong Kong and China, the SARS situation in Taiwan was not serious.
Speaking at a press conference at the China Airlines office at the Amoda Building here, she said only 20 cases of SARS had been reported in Taiwan.
Among the measures taken by the Taiwan government to contain the SARS threat were suspending government employees from travelling to high-risk countries and providing accurate information about SARS prevention to all its citizens.
Visitors to Taiwan are also required to fill out a checklist to identify whether they have visited the affected areas, and to ensure they do not show symptoms of the virus.
China Airlines Malaysia branch general manager Alex Tung said the company was taking the appropriate measures to cope with SARS.
Our airport staff are all wearing protective masks and we will be monitoring passengers for symptoms of SARS.
Later this week, we will be carrying advertisements in the Chinese and English newspapers on guidelines for safe travel, he said.
Tung said China Airlines had, so far, cancelled three daily flights from Kuala Lumpur to Taipei.