THE Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak has caused many Malaysian businessmen to cancel participation in a trade fair in China, one of the countries affected by the illness.
Nanyang Siang Pau reported that the annual Spring Trade Fair in Guangzhou used to attract over 100 companies from Malaysia, but this year, of the 135 companies which had signed up for the event scheduled for April 15-20, only 14 had decided to go.
For the last eight years, under the auspices of the Malaysia-China Economic, Trade and Commerce Association and the Federation of Malaysian Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI), many businessmen had used the trade fair, now into its 93th year, as one way of entering the Chinese market.
Sin Chew Daily highlighted complaints from the public that several tour and travel agents had refused to refund their deposits or postpone the scheduled tours to countries affected by SARS, including China, Hong Kong and Vietnam.
MCA Public Services and Complaints Department chief Michael Chong was quoted as saying that his office had received numerous calls that tour agencies, to avoid making the refunds, were using all sorts of excuses.
These included claims that the deposits or other payments received had been channelled to flight and hotel bookings.
Chong said that requests from clients to defer the departure dates for tours scheduled in mid-April were also turned down by some agencies, which tried to convince them that not all destinations in China were affected by SARS.
Meanwhile, China Press reported that there had been a drop in foreign arrivals at the KL International Airport due to the combined impact of the war in Iraq and SARS scare.
The daily in its editorial also dismissed as impractical Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng’s suggestion to Malaysians working in Singapore who fear that they might contract SARS there to take annual leave.