Saturday, May 02, 2009

Flu scare affecting Johor tourism

The influenza A(H1N1) virus has come as a double whammy to the tourism industry that is still reeling from the effects of the global recession.

Tour groups in Singapore have cancelled plans for travel in June, which is a popular holiday period during the island republic’s school break.

Malaysian Tourist Guides Council president Jimmy Leong said there was also a slowdown in bookings from countries like Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

“The industry has already seen a 40% slump in the past six months due to the economic uncertainties.

“We expect to see a drop in revenue as people hold back their travel plans because of the unpredictable situation of the pandemic, he said.

However, Leong said the real impact of the flu on tourism would only be felt in the next few months as those, who had paid in advance for their tours, would usually continue with their plans.

“Johor is particularly vulnerable as it is dependant on Singapore for the bulk of its tourist arrivals,” said Leong.

The last time the tourism industry was badly hit by a pandemic was during the SARS outbreak in 2003.

He said hotels had learnt from the SARS episode and were now prepared to separate and isolate their guests in special rooms if any showed signs of illness.

“It is worrying as the livelihood of those dependent on the tourism industry is also at stake,” he said.

However, Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) president Ngiam Foon said the outbreak had yet to affect outbound travel, with many Malaysians still going ahead with their vacation plans.

He said Malaysians did not panic easily although they would monitor the health status of their destinations before departing.

“At present, there is minimal impact on Malaysian travellers. There are no cancellations as yet.

“The consumers are smart as they will find out the true status of their intended destination before travelling. Regional travel is not affected,” he said.

Source : STAR
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