KUALA LUMPUR: The peaceful assemblies held in the country recently did not affect Malaysia’s tourism sector, the Dewan Rakyat sitting was told today.
Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz said, on the other hand, by allowing the assemblies to be held, Malaysia had demonstrated to the world that it truly practised the principles of democracy.
“Do not always think that some things have a negative impact on the country. While we strive to achieve the developed nation status by 2020, the freedom of expression cannot be obstructed, we have also accepted the press freedom charter, this too we cannot retract, but there must be fairness,” he said.
He said this when responding to a question from Datuk Liang Teck Meng (BN-Simpang Renggam) on the impact of the street demonstrations organised by several groups on national tourism.
Referring to the Bersih 4 gathering in August and the ‘Himpunan Rakyat Bersatu’ or also known as the Red Shirt Assembly held in September, Mohamed Nazri said in jest that the wide media coverage, including by the international media, had indirectly promoted Malaysia.
“Thanks to Al-Jazeera, CNN, BBC for showing the yellow shirt (Bersih) gathering every hour, although they were protests against the prime minister, the coverage managed to advertise and promote Malaysia and at the same time saved advertising costs worth billions of ringgit,” he said.
Earlier, replying to the original question from Loke Siew Fook (Seremban-DAP), Mohamed Nazri conceded that the number of foreign tourists arriving for the period between January and June declined by 9.4 per cent to 12.56 million people, compared with 13.9 million for the corresponding period last year.
He said the factor for the drop included the consequence from the loss of the Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight MH370, the reduced allocation compared with the 2014 Visit Malaysia Year, the effects of the floods in the East Coast, and the economic slowdown reported by several markets such as Europe.
“The year 2014 was the Visit Malaysia Year where a larger allocation was given to increase promotion, thus if a comparison is made for 2013, the half-year achievement for 2015 still showed an increase of 0.1 percent with 12.55 million foreign tourist arrivals,” he said.
On Loke’s suggestion that the ministry appointed local singer Shila Amzah, who is popular in China, as the tourism ambassador to promote the country’s image in China, Mohamed Nazri said the government was considering the suggestion.