80 percent drop in tourist arrivals

November 2nd, 1998

    KUALA LUMPUR: Tourist arrivals to Malaysia dropped by 80% in September following demonstrations by supporters of former deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim. Speaking when opening a seminar on the National Economic Recovery Plan, Minister of Culture Arts and Tourism Datuk Sabaruddin Chik added that a dialogue with hotel operators in the federal capital recently showed that the hotel occupancy rate was only 35% since the demonstrations started. - BERNAMA

I think it was Mark Twain who said there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics. YB Datuk Seri Orang Utan's figure of 80 per cent, if true, is shocking indeed - as I'm sure it was meant to be. I was troubled. I thought.

I assumed he meant an 80 per cent drop of October figures when compared to September figures (he wasn't too specific). I then asked myself what major calamity could have happened in our fair country that caused such a massive exodus of tourists from our borders - other than, of course, those thousands of rapists of Chinese women rampaging down Jalan TAR and looting and burning Sogo and Globe Silk Store.

What other unusual occurrences happened in September? Ah! The Commonwealth Games! I'm sure we had droves and droves of tourists come in the tens of thousands to watch Malaysia Boleh. They came, they had a good time and a couple of weeks later at the end of September, they went home. Result: a massive drop in tourists compared to October.

Any other unusual occurrences we can think of? Well, there was all that chest-beating, flag-waving and bitching with our Singaporean neighbours - who, by the way, comprise a large bulk of our country's tourist arrivals. You remember all that messy business about railway stations, planned invasions, senior minister memoirs, booing at stadiums, airspace violations, cooking oil - the list is endless. After all that, something tells me quite a few Singaporeans may not take too warmly to the idea of spending their Sing dollars here in Malaysia. Result: a massive drop in tourists.

Let's see if we can think of some more. Sharp economic downturn in ASEAN, Korea and especially Japan. Less money to spend for their holidays. Result: massive drop in tourists in October.

Here's another one. End of the summer holidays in Europe and the US. Result: massive drop in tourists in October.

Some more? People budgetting US$ XXXX or YYYY pounds sterling a few months to go holidaying in Malaysia at the currency exchange rates then suddenly find they have less money to spend with the ringgit pegged in September. Heck, why not go somewhere else cheaper nearby. Result: massive drop in tourists.

Ok Ok ... granted, a few tourists may have stayed away due to the 'troubles'. But enough to cripple the tourism industry? France is right now experiencing its worst and most violent student demonstrations since the summer of 1969. Somehow, though, I cannot foresee France plunge into economic ruin as a result of millions of people forgoing that Paris honeymoon.

And the nasty western media have not been doing a good enough job showing all those violent demonstrations in Taman Negara, Langkawi, Mulu , Gunung Kinabalu, and all those other places where these tourists prefer to spend their time when in Malaysia.

Some even say the Reformasi people want to transform our country into Indonesia. Within less than one week, most of the shopping malls in Jakarta were looted, gutted and burning and hundreds were killed. Since the mass assemblies at Anwar's house on Sept 3, we have had eight consecutive weeks of demonstrations here collectively involving hundreds of thousands of Malaysians. How many shops have been burned or looted? How many people have the demonstrators killed?

If there are any deaths, you can bet your bottom dollar the first ones aren't going to be shopkeepers or police.

We are supposed to be promoting a Caring Societ - according to the government propaganda posters anyway. Unfortunately, for many Malaysians, a caring society just means caring after your own rice bowl. Others, on the other hand, think that caring also means caring for the freedoms we thought we had, caring for justice trampled, caring for truth - not just for ourselves, but for the generations that come after us - so they don't have to get beaten up by police and tear-gassed to preserve their rights and freedoms.

Sadly, they are despised because they care for more of those things than our political leaders do.

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