Malaysia’s tourist arrivals drop 9pc as GST bites

Rising prices from the Goods and Services Tax has caused tourism numbers to fall by 9 per cent this year. ― File pic
Rising prices from the Goods and Services Tax has caused tourism numbers to fall by 9 per cent this year. ― File pic

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KUALA LUMPUR, July 15 ― Tourism numbers here fell by 9 per cent this year as rising prices from the Goods and Services Tax (GST) may be weighing on the industry still recovering from three air disasters last year, Singapore’s Business Times reported.

According to the business daily, tourists are feeling the pinch from the new consumption tax, which has offset the potential of the free-falling ringgit to make Malaysia an attractive shopping haven.

"Things are very expensive here," French tourist M. Poignant was quoted saying during a recent visit to Malaysia.

A 27-per cent drop in Chinese tourists compared to the first quarter last year was indicative of their continued reluctance to travel to Malaysia after the disappearance of MAS Flight MH370, in which most passengers were from China.

Total arrivals from Australia and Singapore also fell 23 per cent and 9 per cent, respectively.

The number of travellers from South Korea, however, rose by 11 per cent rise or 121,178 arrivals.

This comes after statistics compiled by Tourism Malaysia last Wednesday showed a decline of about 600,000 arrivals in the first quarter of this year compared with the same period last year.

There were 6,482,692 foreign visitors from January to March, down from 7,091,433 in the first three months of last year.

Malaysian Association of Tour & Travel Agents (Matta) president Hamzah Rahmat insisted, however, that the disappearance of MH370 in March 2014 and the fatal crash of MAS flight MH17 last July did not contribute to the industry’s overall decline.

“The airline tragedies are no longer an issue as most travellers have got over their fear of air travel,” he said.

Hamzah instead attributed the dip to an unstable political climate that was affecting how people perceived Malaysia which, in turn, was driving away tourists.

“Take Greece, for instance. It is a beautiful country but visitors would think twice about going there because of the unfortunate condition they are in now,” he said. 

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