As fallout from the recent Malaysia Airlines disaster continues, China CYTS Tours, among China's largest domestic travel agencies, announced it will cease co-operation with the Malaysian carrier. The announcement came on March 26 via the agency's official website. The company promises to fully refund all customers who decide to cancel planned trips to Malaysia, and also plans to work with other airlines when designing future Malaysia tour packages.
Citing safety as a reason for the move, the travel agency said "In the wake of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 370 incident, we feel we are socially responsible for taking care of Chinese tourists." With the announcement, CYTS became the first Chinese travel agency to publicly break off ties with Malaysia Airlines.
In 2013, about 1.7 million Chinese tourists visited Malaysia. This represents a 26% increase over the previous year, as China has become the third largest source of tourists to Malaysia, behind Singapore and Indonesia. The Malaysian government had planned to attract even more Chinese visitors through premium tours packages, especially as 2014 marks the 40th anniversary of the establishment of Sino-Malaysian diplomatic relations. The MH 370 disaster, in which over half of the passengers were Chinese, has changed everything.
Following the incident, Guangzhou travel agency GZL has witnessed a 40% drop in visitors to Singapore and Malaysia. The Guangzhou Daily reports that the Guangdong branch of China International Travel Service (CITS), despite offering Malaysian tours at the relatively low price of RMB 2299, has also seen a 30% drop in March. Guangzhou resident Bai Jing, who recently scrapped a planned trip to Malaysia, summed up local sentiment: "The security in the airport and the attitude of Malaysia Airlines greatly disappointed me. I don't want to go to the country any more."
Other Asian countries are leaping at the chance to increase their share of Chinese tourists. Tour packages for other Southeast Asian countries, including Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia, have experienced a 31% bump in sign-ups compared to February. Flower viewing tours to South Korea and Japan are other popular springtime choices receiving increased interest.
(By Jessie Huang, Ian Heuer)