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Malaysia


Government's ‘cuts and culls’ leave Malaysian tourism dry

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Yusof Sulaiman / eTN  Jun 12, 2008

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (eTN) - In a "top to bottom" austerity drive by the Malaysian government to stave off rising global fuel costs, new rulings binding government departments and agencies are expected to hit the tourism sector hard, according to industry leaders.

A new government directive limiting expenditures on official events, with the exception of international events, to be held "in-house" may now leave the hotel convention rooms empty for longer periods.

"It could wipe out up to 70 percent of events at hotels," said IIyas Zainol Abidin, president of the Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) in an immediate response to the government's announcement. "The government can scale down their events, but to stop coming will wipe some of us out."

The government's move, said industry observers, could hurt Malaysia's aim to catch up with Singapore in the profitable MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) market.

Arif Nor, a tourism official from Kelantan state who is organizing an international travel conference in conjunction with one of the country's "visit year" programs, said he has had to scale down his sponsorship programs. "As a result of the government's austerity drive, I now have to work twice as hard to achieve the same results."

Ong Tee Keat, a government minister who is frequently required to be in attendance at official functions added, the government should take a second look at the frequency of seminars and other activities which have up to now been held at five-star hotels. "The number of seminars at holiday resorts should be limited," he said.

Ilyas has proposed the government "repackage" events it is hosting, instead of stopping events to be held at hotels. Ilyas stated, "Instead of using a 4-star hotel, the event can be held at a 3-star hotel, and instead of giving single rooms to participants, they can share rooms."

Malaysian Tourism Minister Azalina Othman added, the hotel industry has made a lot of investments, saying, "They need help. I hope a solution can be found."

The government's austerity drive will not only cover staging conferences, seminars and courses, but there is also a directive that souvenir, decorations and buffet spreads should not only be "toned down" to a "moderate level," but discouraged, if possible.

Government curbs and cuts will also limit official overseas trips byofficials, including paid holidays enjoyed by cabinet members and deputy ministers.

Overseas travel for official purposes will now be limited to only "very important" international, or government-to-government meetings. A minister can be accompanied by three officials only, while a deputyminister can be accompanied by two officials.

Paid holidays will now be limited to one week a year and limited to ASEAN countries, instead of "any" overseas destination.

"The country's leadership should set an example in facing the challenge," said Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi. "The government feels the people's suffering."

Government's ‘cuts and culls’ leave Malaysian tourism dry
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