PETALING JAYA: The Culture, Arts and Tourism Ministry is confident that tourist arrivals will touch pre-SARS levels in August.
Minister Datuk Paduka Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir said arrival figures had improved last month and the figures this month was much better, even though they were lower than last years.
July will be better than June, and beginning August we will start to come up to last years figures, Abdul Kadir said after launching the Malaysian Asso-cition of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) Conference 2003 yesterday.
The conference is themed My Place-Your Place: A Case for Developing Bilateral Intra-Regional Tourism.
Abdul Kadir said last years tourist arrivals averaged over one million a month but he was unable to give figures for recent arrivals because the data was being compiled.
He said arrivals for last month had dropped by 58.6% compared to May last year due to SARS, but added that the war in Iraq had not affected tourism here.
If not for SARS, we would have had a bumper year (this year) and exceeded last years total tourist arrivals of 13.3 million, he said, noting that arrivals in January and February before the SARS outbreak exceeded those of the same months last year.
He said the tourism industrys task now was to overcome the psychological fear of SARS in the region even though the epidemic was under control, adding: One way to do it is not to write or talk about SARS.
Abdul Kadir said the ministry would be resuming talks on how to tap the China market again now that the country had been taken of the World Health Organi sations list of SARS-affected countries.
He said the ministry had managed to recover some of the cancellations by Middle Eastern tourists following the SARS outbreak.
Matta president Tunku Is_kandar Tunku Abdullah said he hoped to see last years arrivals achieved by November or December, adding that he estimated this years total arrivals to be down by not more than 25%.
Earlier, Abdul Kadir said neighbouring countries should not be seen as competitors in the tourism sector but as complemen tary partners.
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