Tourism Ministry shifts gaze from China following coronavirus crisis

PUTRAJAYA: As the Malaysian tourism industry grapples with the effects of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) crisis, the Government is shifting its target market away from China.

Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Mohamaddin Ketapi (pic) said they would restructure Visit Malaysia 2020 promotion plans to focus on other markets such as Europe, Australia, the Middle East, Central Asia, Russia as well East Asian countries like Japan and South Korea.

"The crisis caused by the novel coronavirus has drastically affected the number of tourist arrivals from China.

"This has caused much worry in Malaysia, particularly those working in the tourism industry.

"The ministry has started to formulate several short term plans and 'quick win' strategies to address this issue.

"We are looking into alternative countries besides China where we will ramp up our promotions in those places," said Mohamaddin at a press conference here.

He earlier chaired the first meeting of the Tourism Recovery Action Committee, which was set up for Government agencies and tourism industry players to discuss ways to manage the situation caused by the 2019-nCoV outbreak.

The minister said China represented 11% of Malaysia's total tourist market share.

He added that the Government's target of 30 million foreign tourist arrivals and RM100bil receipts for the Visit Malaysia 2020 campaign remains unchanged.

Mohamaddin also said he and ministry officials would also visit Asean countries to try and attract tourists.

"Other than that, we will also be boosting our promotions for our domestic market. Malaysians actually enjoy holidaying in the country, so we want to get more of them to have 'Cuti-Cuti Malaysia' throughout the Visit Malaysia 2020 campaign.

"After all, toll fares have also been reduced, so there's more reason to travel within the country," said Mohamaddin.

He said the ministry would also be hold town hall sessions with tourism industry players in Sabah, Penang and Johor next week to discuss the current situation.

"We want to gather the input of the industry players on this matter, and hopefully the feedback can help the government find some solutions to address this issue," he said.

Malaysia has banned flights from Hubei in China and have also temporarily suspended the issuance of visa to citizens from the province.

States like Sabah and Sarawak, which have autonomy over immigration laws, have imposed a total ban on visitors from China.

Wuhan, a city of 11 million people, is located in the Hubei province and is the epicentre of the 2019-nCov crisis which has so far recorded over 20,000 positive cases and killed 425 people.

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