The controversy surrounding missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 has prompted many Chinese tourists, who once saw Malaysia as an attractive holiday destination, to look elsewhere, travel agents said on Tuesday.
Eleven Chinese travel agents told Reuters that bookings between China and Malaysia had fallen severely, and that many people have cancelled their trips, amid anger at the perceived lack of information provided by the Malaysian government to Malaysian Airlines plane passengers' families.
A sympathy message is displayed at the webpage of the Malaysia Airlines website, in Shah Alam, outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Tuesday, March 25, 2014. It was the grim news that families of the missing Malaysian Airlines flight had dreaded for weeks, and on Monday they heard it from Malaysia’s prime minister: new analysis of satellite data indicates the missing plane crashed into a remote corner of the Indian Ocean. (AP)
"We used to have 30 to 40 customers a month for group tours to Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand. Now there is no one asking about this route or booking," a travel agent surnamed Chen told Reuters by telephone.
"Tourists don't even consider going there. Many also have a negative impression of the country now," said Chen with Comfort Travel, in the southern city of Guangzhou, which focuses heavily on Southeast Asia tours.
In Beijing, angry relatives of Chinese passengers aboard the missing plane protested on Tuesday outside the Malaysian Embassy, demanding an explanation from the airline and accusing the government in Kuala Lumpur of "delays and deception".
Flight MH370, with 239 people on board, vanished from civilian radar screens less than an hour after take-off on March 8 on a routine flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Most of the passengers were Chinese.
"The Malaysian government deliberately delayed publicising real information about the flight. We should punish this completely irresponsible attitude and boycott Malaysian tourism," said a user of Sina Weibo, China's version of Twitter.
"Originally I was considering travelling in Malaysia this year, now I think their country is so disgusting," wrote another microblogger. "They lied to everyone for half a month."
The slowdown in Chinese travel could hurt Malaysia's goal of boosting tourism, though the impact on the economy may be limited. Chinese tourist arrivals account for about 12 percent of Malaysia's total tourists and 0.4