21 March 2003
KUALA LUMPUR - Leading travel agents in Malaysia have
received cancellations for both inbound and outbound tours
and incentive trips in the past few days due, to the
combined blows of the Iraq war and the Severe Acute
Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
Diethelm Travel, which has 95 percent of its business
from Europe, had its first cancellations a few days back
because of the SARS scare, and not the war.
"Some European media lumped Asia collectively as the
source of outbreak of SARS, so we have received
cancellations from a few groups. Then the war starts and we
have more calls to postpone their trips to Malaysia. I
expect the next two months to be very soft," said its
managing director, Manfred Kurz.
Anthony Wong, group managing director, Asian Overland
Services Tours and Travel, had cancellations from Europe
and Philippines for the Formula 1 race currently on and for
the round Malaysia tours. Most of the cancellations are
from long haul markets.
"The regional markets are holding up well, with slight
cancellations. This market is more dependable and we will
focus on it for the future," he said.
The outbound market too suffered despite the buying
frenzy at the recent MATTA International Travel Fair.
Executive director of Marco Polo Holidays, Jiun Kiew, said
the company has received cancellations for China tours
bought at the fair due to the SARS scare.
"The Iraq war only affects the choice of destinations,
with most consumers opting for regional travel and not
longhaul. Australia is actually benefiting from the two
Those who cancelled their Hong Kong/China tours have
opted for Australia, with some diverting to Korea and
Japan. I expect outbound traffic to be slow for the next
few weeks while waiting for the war and the SARS scare to
be over. People will still travel but regionally. I am sure
traffic will be back to normal, as long as the war is
contained and no reports of more people dying of SARS."
Meanwhile, Malaysia Airlines has cancelled flights to
Istanbul, Beirut, Dubai and Cairo for the next three days
due to low demand following the outbreak of the Iraq war,
its senior general manager corporate services, Dr Mohamadon
Abdullah said in a statement yesterday.