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Rampant snatch thefts hit tourism industry

  • Tourists are reminded to stay vigilant and take care of their personal belongings. Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily
  • Tourists are also advised not to walk alone at night. Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily

Translated by SOONG PHUI JEE
Sin Chew Daily

KUALA LUMPUR, May 20 (Sin Chew Daily) – In addition to affecting the people's daily life, deteriorating law and order in the country has also hit the tourism industry. Tourism operators and tourists thus called for more stringent enforcement.

Many foreign tourists have become victims of crimes in Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Malacca in recent years, casting a shadow over the country's tourism industry.

Malaysian Chinese Tourism Association (MCTA) President Paul Paw said that the country's security problems have come to an unpreventable stage as crimes take place at almost every corner nationwide, particularly in tourist areas, and snatch thefts are most rampant.

He told Sin Chew Daily that poor law and order will tarnish the country's image while affecting tourists' confidence in the country's safety. In addition to urging the law enforcement units to strengthen law enforcement and patrols, tourism operators have also been reminding tourists from time to time that they must always stay vigilant and take good care of their belongings.

He pointed out that tourist attractions like Dataran Merdeka, Bukit Bintang and restaurants in Jalan Imbi have become black areas with frequent snatch thefts.

"We received many complaints from tourists that their handbags or valuables were snatched by motorcyclists in tourist areas, and some were snatched while enjoying their meal at outdoor seats," he said.

Paw also said that 60% to 70% of Chinese tours to Malaysia, mainly scheduled in April to August, have been cancelled due to the disappearance of Malaysia Airline Flight MH370, causing business operators to suffer conservatively RM10 million loss and the amount reaches RM100 million for the whole tourism market.

"About 1.6 million Chinese tourists visited Malaysia last year but now, 70% of tourists are gone, the decline is severe and disastrous," he said.

Malaysian Inbound Tourism Association (MITA) advisor Datuk Albert Tan San Sum said that the abduction in Sabah and MH370 tragedy have caused an 80% drop in Chinese tours in June.

He said that security issues like rampant snatch thefts have also scared Chinese tourists away.

He said that tour guides have the responsibility to remind tourists that they should take care of their own safety and belongings.

"Generally, tour guides will remind tourists about matters that they should pay attention upon their arrivals at the airport, including taking care of their belongings, particularly when they are visiting outdoor tourist attractions and while walking the streets," he said.

He hopes that the government can do more publicity and convey positive messages about Malaysia to encourage the return of Chinese tourists to the country.

"Law enforcement authorities need to strengthen law enforcement, particularly around tourist attractions and downtown streets," he added.

The recent snatch case involving two tourists in Malacca has again highlighted the security issue of foreign tourists in Malaysia. However, Kuala Lumpur police stressed that KL is still a safe city.

A KL police spokesperson told Sin Chew Daily that as a whole, not many robberies in KL have involved foreign tourists, but the police will still address the issue.

She said that KL has tourist police and thus, snatch thefts or robberies involving foreign tourists will be given priority.

She said that criminals do not care whether it is a foreigner or not, but the chances to commit the crimes, and most crimes are committed for money, not to harm the victims.

A Malacca B&B operator said that Malacca faced no security problem in the past but after Malacca was listed on the Unesco World Heritage list, the number of tourists increased, so does the number of criminals. The situation has even gone worse in the recent three years and to ensure the safety of tourists, B&B operators have repeatedly reminded them to take care of their belongings.

He said that criminals tended to act alone in the past but nowadays, they act in groups and assault people in addition to snatching or robbing. It has seriously affected the local tourism industry and could severely hit the tourism development of Malacca in the long-run.

He said that the police patrol the old town area three to five times a day, but it still fails to alleviate the situation and thus, he hopes that more "Operasi Payung" can be conducted and more policemen can be stationed in "security black zones".

"The authorities should install CCTVs in old town areas to help ferret out the criminals or install street lights in alleys," he added.

A tour guide said that it was understood that the "black zones" with most frequent crimes are Dataran Merdeka and the plaza in front of Putra Mosque in Putrajaya.

She said that although she has always reminded tourists that they should take care of their belongings before they disembark the bus, but many still leave their bags unattended on the ground while taking photos.

Meanwhile, the number of snatch thefts in Penang has also significantly increased in recent years.

In particular, the Love Lane area and historical sites of George Town have become the "black areas" due to their geographical conditions.


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