Malaysia halts tourism blitz until MH370 ordeal over, says minister

College students light up candles as they pray for passengers of the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 plane in Yangzhou, Jiangsu province, March 13, 2014. — Reuters pic
College students light up candles as they pray for passengers of the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 plane in Yangzhou, Jiangsu province, March 13, 2014. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Mar 24 — Malaysia will temporarily stop promoting itself as a tourist destination, especially in China, as a mark of respect for the passengers and crew on the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz said today.

It would be hard to formulate a strategy to attract tourists while the plane is still missing, even though Malaysia has declared 2014 as Visit Malaysia Year (VMY) 2014, he said.

“Until then (the plane is found), I have decided to not hold any roadshows especially in China because this issue is very sensitive,” Nazri said in Parliament.

“This is because until we find out the ending to the story of MH370, it will be hard to plan any programmes to attract tourists to our country.”

The search for the airliner has entered its third week.

The strategy was criticised today by PAS’ Pokok Sena MP Datuk Mahfuz Omar, who said that it will not help Malaysia overtake Thailand in attracting tourists.

Mahfuz said Thailand had managed to court tourists even as its capital Bangkok was overwhelmed with rallies and protests.

Nazri hit back, claiming that the MH370 tragedy is unlike the chaos in Bangkok, which he said was “self-inflicted”.

“Even when there are major demonstrations, it could still promote its tourism without feeling guilt,” the Padang Rengas MP said.

“But MH370 is considered an unfortunate event and even until today we do not know where the plane is.”

Credit Suisse, an investment bank, said last month that tourists scared off by the political instability in Thailand are expected to flock to Malaysia, giving the local economy a boost.

It predicted that Malaysia’s tourism campaign for 2014 will boost tourist numbers.

The predictions came well before the Malaysia Airlines jet went missing on March 8.

The plane disappeared less than an hour after leaving Kuala Lumpur International Airport for Beijing. It was carrying 239 people including 150 Chinese nationals.

According to Tourism Malaysia, over 25 million tourists visited Malaysia in 2012, spending RM60.6 billion. 

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