Taiwan sees fewer tourists as Chinese stay away

Tourist taking pictures of the Taipei 101 Tower in Taiwan. (AFP)
Updated 17 May 2017
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Taiwan sees fewer tourists as Chinese stay away

TAIWAN: Visitor numbers to Taiwan fell in the first quarter, dragged down by a 42 percent plunge in arrivals from China as relations worsen across the strait.
The number of Chinese tourists to the island has dropped since Beijing-skeptic President Tsai Ing-wen took office last May, with speculation China is turning off the taps as a pressure tactic.
Beijing — which sees self-ruled Taiwan as still part of its territory — is wary of Tsai’s party, which traditionally advocates independence from China.
The January-March quarter saw the total number of visitors fall 10 percent to 2.54 million from last year, according to data from the Tourism Bureau.
Increases from other areas including Southeast Asia were not enough to offset the steep fall in Chinese visitors, which plummeted to 659,575 in the quarter from 1.14 million.
Tourism operators attribute the decline to a more negative portrayal of Taiwan in Chinese media and scaled back promotion of tours by major Chinese travel agencies.
“The tension in cross-strait relations definitely affects their desire to visit and spend in Taiwan,” said Ringo Lee, a spokesman for the Travel Agent Association of Taiwan.
Lee added that most visits by mainland officials have also halted.
“The approach is both bottom-up and also top-down,” he told AFP Wednesday.
The drop in visitor numbers in the first quarter follows a record high last year, which saw 10.69 million arrivals.
Tsai has been pushing a strategy to expand ties with Southeast Asian countries, including tourism, in a bid to reduce reliance on China.
But critics say the Southeast Asian market is too small to expect it to catch up anytime soon.
Chinese visitors accounted for about 33 percent of the total in 2016, the biggest group, while those from Southeast Asia including Malaysia and Singapore made up 15 percent.
Taiwan had seen a boom in mainland tourists under former Beijing-friendly president Ma Ying-jeou, who oversaw eight years of cross-strait rapprochement and trade deals.
But voters wary of closer China ties led to Tsai’s victory last January.


Malaysia mosque bans tourists after ‘sexy dance’ goes viral

Updated 25 June 2018
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Malaysia mosque bans tourists after ‘sexy dance’ goes viral

KUALA LUMPUR: A Malaysian mosque has banned tourists after a video of two female visitors in skimpy outfits dancing in front of the Muslim holy site went viral online.
The pair, of East Asian appearance and believed to be foreigners, were filmed doing the dance in skimpy shorts and tops exposing their midriffs on a wall outside the main mosque in the city of Kota Kinabalu, a popular site for visitors and tour groups.
Residents and local Muslim groups were incensed by the risqué moves outside the holy site on Borneo island, which is renowned for its huge blue and gold dome and ornate minarets.
An outraged onlooker can be heard in the video saying: “Why don’t they just fall off the wall?”
Mosque chairman Jamal Sakaran at the weekend slammed “the unacceptable behavior by foreign tourists” and announced a temporary halt to any tourists visiting the mosque in Sabah state, adding the move was to preserve the sanctity of Islam.
The nationality of the women involved was not clear.
State Tourism Minister Christina Liew told The Star newspaper legal action would not be taken against the pair as they were likely unaware of the severity of their actions. But authorities wanted to track them down to explain “that something they deemed as ‘fun’ was actually disrespectful and not right in Sabah.”
Large numbers of tourists — both local and foreign — visit the mosque, often during a brief stop in Kota Kinabalu before heading into the jungles of Sabah to see the jungle-clad state’s abundance of wildlife.
Tourists can usually visit mosques in Muslim-majority Malaysia, where most practice a moderate form of Islam, but are advised to wear modest clothing.
It is not the first time that foreign visitors have landed in hot water for disrespecting local culture in Sabah.
In 2015 four Western tourists pleaded guilty to obscenity charges for taking nude photos on popular peak Mount Kinabalu, an act some in the country blamed for causing a deadly earthquake.