Report: Estimated RM5m losses for Sarawak over swim meet cancellation after Israel kerfuffle

Kuching was initially set to host the World Para Swimming Championships from July 29 till August 4, with about 600 swimmers from around 60 nations including Israel originally slated for participation with 160 titles up for grabs.— Reuters pic
Kuching was initially set to host the World Para Swimming Championships from July 29 till August 4, with about 600 swimmers from around 60 nations including Israel originally slated for participation with 160 titles up for grabs.— Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 31 — Sarawak’s businesses are expected to suffer losses of at least RM5 million, according to conservative estimates, due to the cancellation of an international swimming championships after Malaysia’s entry denial to Israeli athletes, a report said.

John Teo, the secretary-general of the Sarawak chapter of the Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH), gave a conservative estimate of at least RM1.5 million losses to the hotel industry in Sarawak after the event in Kuching was called off.

“Although the contest is only for a week, but these athletes and coaches usually would stay for one to two weeks, including coming earlier to train and adapt to the surroundings, and will also stay back for a few days as a tourist after the contest ends.

“Two weeks’ worth of hotel guest volume gone suddenly, it will certainly have a big impact on the hotel industry, it will be difficult for hotels to find such a big volume of guests in a short time to fill up the gap,” he was quoted telling Chinese vernacular paper Sin Chew Daily.

Teo also reportedly noted that other affected industries include travel agencies, restaurants, airlines, logistics firms and shopping malls, pointing out that some tourism industry players or transport firms had even purchased new buses or vehicles to ferry the athletes.

He also pointed out that athletes would have also taken the opportunity to visit other places in Sarawak such as Sibu, Miri and also the United Nations-recognised World Heritage Site, Mulu National Park.

He said it was a pity that the event, which Sarawak had been in preparations for the past two years had to be cancelled, also noting that the MAH is unable to do anything as the cancellation was linked to government policies and foreign relations.

“Even if there are members that complain to the association, we also can’t do anything,” he said.

In a separate article, Sin Chew Daily cited Sarawak Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah saying the state government had no power to issue or deny visas for entry into the country, as it is under the federal government’s jurisdiction.

“We cannot do anything, unless the federal government changes its attitude and stand,” he was quoted saying.

Abdul Karim explained that the federal government determines the country’s foreign relations policy, also reportedly noting that Sarawak has to comply with the country’s policies.

On January 27, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) stripped Malaysia of the right to host the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships that was slated to be held in Sarawak this July, due to Putrajaya’s ban on Israel athletes’ participation in the sports event.

Expressing its disappointment and stating that “politics and sports are never a good mix”, the IPC said it had no choice but to seek new hosts when a host country excludes athletes from a country due to “political reasons”.

The IPC said it will be looking for a new host country for the World Para Swimming Championships, which it said is a “vital” event as its acts as a qualifier to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

The Sarawak capital, Kuching was initially set to host the World Para Swimming Championships from July 29 till August 4, with about 600 swimmers from around 60 nations including Israel originally slated for participation with 160 titles up for grabs.

But due to Malaysia not having any diplomatic relations with Israel because of a pro-Palestine stance, Israelis cannot enter Malaysia and vice versa.

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