Tourism businesses in South-east Asia are operating as usual with no cancellations or tour itinerary changes, as the prevailing haze enveloped populated cities in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore and caused air quality to drop to hazardous levels.
The haze was due to ash and smoke bellowing from more than 5,000 hot spots in Indonesia, caused by the illegal burning to clear land for palm oil and paper plantations in Indonesia.
Mohd Akil Yusof, managing director of Kuala Lumpur-based Triways Travel Network, shared: “Forward bookings are looking good. We don’t have any cancellations and tours are running as normal. We encourage guests to wear face masks when they are outdoors and to stay indoors as much as possible.
“Our guides also give guests the option of walking around and looking at the sights up-close and taking photographs or sitting in an air-conditioned bus.”
Oscar Choo, director of operations, CPH Travel Agencies, in Kuching, Sarawak, shared: “Bookings are coming in as normal despite the haze. We had four bus loads of cruise tourists visiting the Semenggoh Nature Reserve (last week) and no one cancelled because of the haze. We provide guests with face masks and advise them to stay hydrated.”
Sabah-based Myne Travel’s senior manager, RoseMawaty Adil Embun, said that the area had been receiving daily rain in the afternoons in recent days. “We offer face masks to guests going for outdoor tours but many do not take them as the haze is not that bad.”
Malaysia’s tourism, arts and culture deputy minister Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik was reported by the Malay Mail to have said that the haze had not affected the number of tourist arrivals to the country.
Meanwhile, the Singapore Grand Prix 2019 continued to take place over the past weekend, despite coinciding with the city’s worst air quality in three years.
Inbound tourists appeared to be largely undeterred by the hazy conditions. Xperience Singapore’s director Jane Goh shared that she was still bringing groups in for the Grand Prix weekend and has a line-up of incentive groups coming in this week.
Clients from the longhaul markets appear unfazed by the haze and “usually wouldn’t wear masks” while venturing about town, Goh observed.
Likewise, it’s also business as usual for food tour company Wok ’n’ Stroll. Its founder & CEO, Karni Tomer, said: “(The air quality is) terrible, but I haven’t heard any complaints from my clients. Four years ago, when the PSI hit 250, I still had clients – I simply brought masks and explained the situation (to them).”
Tourists are still coming to Singapore and heading out to eat even in these hazy conditions, Tomer added.
Additional reporting by Pamela Chow