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MH370 backlash could hurt Singapore, Malaysia tours

Operators say demand for combined tours will depend on how situation plays out

Singapore

DEMAND for inbound tours featuring Singapore and Malaysia could see some ripple effect, following the backlash that Malaysia has received in China following the missing MH370 plane incident.

SA Tours' manager for inbound tours, Dan Tan, said that he has seen a 40 per cent decrease in demand for such combined packages. Mr Tan said that the bulk of the drop comes from Chinese tourists, as demand from tourists in other countries have held steady.

At this time of the year, SA Tours usually receives enquiries from Chinese tourists for large tour groups of 80 to 100 people for the mid-year holiday period. However, for now, the company has received enquiries only from small groups of three to five people.

Mr Tan said that while business has already declined because of a weaker global economy, he believes the MH370 incident is another reason behind the drop in numbers for combined inbound tours. "There's a lot of debate online between Malaysians and the Chinese, and the Chinese are saying they won't come to Malaysia again," said Mr Tan.

To assure tourists, Golden Travel Services' managing director, Cindy Chng, has told them that travelling to Malaysia is still safe, that the incident "should have no linkage with the place itself".

Although there have been no cancellations thus far from Chinese tourists coming in July for combined tours, Ms Chng said that they have expressed some concerns. "They may not have a good impression of Malaysia and don't want to travel there," she said.

She added that she is open to making changes for tourists if they want to forgo the Malaysia leg of the tour.

While CTC Travel does not have combined tour packages, senior manager for marketing and PR Ian Tan said that he expects such sentiments to cause a drop in Chinese tourists coming to Singapore. "We're pretty close neighbours, and people tend to link us together," he said.

But Mr Tan does not think the impact will be huge. He said that CTC Travel has not been affected much as the company does not have many Chinese customers and focuses more on outbound travel.

Timesworld Travel & Educational Tours and Chan Brothers said that the incident has not impacted combined inbound tours, possibly because they run more corporate and educational tours which could be less affected.

But Timesworld's director, Cynthia Teo, said that they could face a 10 to 20 per cent drop in demand for the peak season. People are still unsure and are waiting for others to take the first step, she said.

Tour operators say that the number of Chinese travellers on combined tours in the upcoming months will depend on how the situation is handled and resolved.

On social media, several Chinese celebrities have criticised the Malaysian government's handling of the missing plane. Actress Zhang Ziyi said that the government failed to take responsibility while actor-singer Chen Kun said that he would boycott all Malaysia-related products and tours.

While the company does not intend to make changes to its tours at this point, SA Tours' Mr Tan said that they will monitor the situation in the months ahead.