Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) president Datuk Tan Kok Liang said the country was safe for tourists and the South Korean government’s advice was a “broad brush” measure to tackle the issue.
“Malaysia had remained safe for all visitors to travel as government authorities had been proactive
and taken all necessary measures to prevent and contain the outbreak, which received commendation by the World Health Organization,”
He noted that most South Korean visitors to Malaysia were headed for Sabah, which saw a record
high of 396,660 tourist arrivals last year.
Tan said Sabah and Sarawak had imposed strict restrictions to contain the spread of Covid-19, such as barring tourists from China and those with a travel history to China from visiting the state.
“If Malaysia must be included, Sabah and Sarawak ought to be excluded as these two states are as safe to visit and should be promoted as safe havens for tourists.
“Local tourism players are disappointed to see Koreans being discouraged to visit Sabah as such action is discriminatory and uncalled for,” he said.
Malaysia, he added, welcomed 677,440 South Korean tourists last year, which made up about 2.5% of all visitors’ arrival.
The South Korean tourists’ spent about RM3.2bil in total or 3.3% of all tourism expenditure, staying for an average of 6.5 nights.
Travel advisories, Tan stressed, were just a guide for tourists and need not be strictly followed.
“Travel advisories are issued by many countries from time to time based on information gathered, but may not be totally accurate. In any case, they are just advisories and need not be adhered to.
“Nevertheless, we hope no more advisories will be issued against travel to Malaysia as it can cripple our tourism industry, more so in Sabah, which received a disproportionately high number of Korean tourists than other parts of the country,” Tan added.
Malaysia Tourist Guides Council president Jimmy Leong, however, said that the issuance of such an advisory was expected but in all instances, it would be the people from those countries who would ultimately decide whether to travel or not.
“It is best that the tourism industry moved into ‘containment mode’ to allow for essential health control measures to be put in place.
“Without going through this much-needed phase, the recovery (of the tourism industry) will not come faster,” he said.
He also said South Korean tourists were a big contributor to the country’s golf tourism.
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