Tourists Avoiding U.S.
- Officials say travel to US down sharply because of
post 9/11 entry requirements
WASHINGTON (AP) - Top Bush administration officials
said Wednesday that restrictions on the entry of
foreigners have prompted many to shun travel to the
United States since 2001. They recommended that the
constraints be reviewed.
"This hurts us," Secretary of State Colin Powell said,
citing a 30 percent decline in overseas visits to the
United States over 2 1/2 years. "It's is not serving
our interests. And so we really do have to work on
Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said the
security benefits derived from the post-Sept. 11
restrictions have had unwanted economic side effects.
Powell and Ridge made their comments in testimony to
the House Judiciary Committee.
Powell cited the example of a Harvard Ph.D. candidate
from China who returned to his homeland to attend a
wedding but was unable to resume his studies for
months because he had neglected to reapply for
permission for the return trip.
"People aren't going to take that for very long, and
when the word gets out to others, they will start
going elsewhere," Powell said.
The number of foreign students in the United States is
down as are visits by scientists, businessmen and
others, he added.
Rep. William Delahunt, D-Mass., said the Boston area
he represents normally attracts large numbers of
foreign scholars but there has been a "dramatic
decline" since 2001.
"I am very concerned," he said.
Ridge said the increased scrutiny of foreigners
wishing to visit the United States was understandable
in the post-Sept. 11 climate. But, he said, "two years
have elapsed. We've seen the consequences of some of
these changes. We have to be serious about reviewing
While stressing the need for making travel
restrictions less onerous, Powell and Ridge defended
the administration's recent request for a tightening
of rules affecting millions of visitors from 27
friendly European and Pacific nations.
Earlier this month, the administration asked Congress
to require for the first time in years that travelers
from these countries be fingerprinted and photographed
before entering the United States.
Under the administration's proposal, the requirement
would be in effect until Nov. 30, 2006 -- two years
later than originally planned. By that time, the 27
visa waiver countries will be expected to have
so-called "biometric passports" for its citizens.
Such passports will include fingerprint and iris
identification features that make the documents
virtually impossible to counterfeit.
Since January, travelers from most foreign countries
have had their digital photographs and fingerprints
checked against U.S. security data bases.
Malaysia Adopts Honeymoon Package To Woo Arab Tourists
Malaysian tourist infrastructure makes it a good place to visit
By Kazi Mahmood, IOL Southeast Asia Correspondent
KUALA LUMPUR, April 26 (IslamOnline.net) - In a bid to boost its
tourism sector, the Malaysian Tourism Ministry mulls promoting visits
to the Asian country as a beautiful and peaceful state, by
introducing a honeymoon package to attract tourists from the Arab
Local travel agencies are already working on the modalities and on
the how to promote the idea of Malaysia as a `honeymooners paradise'
since the country anticipates an influx of tourists from Arab
countries this June.
The newly appointed deputy Minister of Tourism Ahmad Zahid Hamidi
informed the Press in Malaysia Sunday, April 25, that his Ministry
was working on such a package and that the country expected a rise in
tourists from Arabia this year.
Malaysia will participate in the Arab Travel Mart in Dubai on May 2
and plans have already been drawn on how to attract this segment of
the young tourist market from that Gulf state.
The target market for "the honeymooners scheme" will be Dubai and
other states in the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and
certainly Jordan, IOL was told by a tourism Ministry official Monday,
Tourists from the Middle East usually flock to Malaysia after the
month of May, visiting the largely Muslim nation with their families
and staying for at least a week in lavish hotels in Kuala Lumpur and
"Malaysia is a preferred market for Tourists from the Middle East
since the September 11, 2001, events in the U.S.," said Bashirah
Farhan, who works in the tourism industry in Kuala Lumpur.
She said to IOL that her company expects a steep rise in arrivals
from the Middle East and that the current government campaign to
market Malaysia as a favored destination for young tourists will
boost arrivals from that particular region this year.
She also said that there might be an increase of 20 to 30 percent in
arrivals from Arab countries this year due to the relative peaceful
environment the tourists enjoy in Malaysia.
"Malaysia has enough quality hotels, excellent public transportation,
and food, especially Halal food, is everywhere to be found. That is
what Muslim tourists want and Malaysia is one rare country in Asia
that offers all the three elements all year round," said Najamudin
Sahid, a hotel owner in Selangor.
"The deputy Minister has said that he hoped our hotels are also ready
to handle tourist arrivals from Arab countries. Well, I think most of
them are ready waiting for the tourists," he said.
"We have good hotels, nice ones for newly married couples the only
thing is the pricing must be the correct ones and the facilities in
some areas must be upgraded.
"The Arab tourists, young or old, would surely like extra privacy and
for newly married couples, this applies well. Hence, we have to give
these couples extra privacy too," said Najamudin.
Tourism is the third major sector of growth in Malaysia and its
development in the past 10 years has boosted the Malaysian hotel and
tourism sectors with high growth rates, except in 1997-98 when the
economy slumped due to a currency crash.
In 2004, the Malaysian government has vowed to make tourism one of
its bigger foreign currency earners.
More than a hundred thousand tourists from Arabia visited Malaysia
last year, which experts in the industry says is still too little for
all the efforts made by Malaysia to capture this market.
"Malaysia needs to do more to get more Arab tourists to be here all
year long, this is a great opportune time and the response from the
Arab tourists too must be reciprocating," said Najamudin to IOL.
Total Incoming arrivals increased to an approximate 13.3 million in
2002, about 4% up, while Outgoing departures by Malaysians fell in
2002 to 29.8 million.
In 2003, the accommodation market experienced severe oversupply and
occupancy rates have been severely affected due to the SARS crisis.
The Malaysian government has this year urged the state governments to
prepare tourism brochures to promote Malaysia as the preferred
destination for tourists.
The authorities wish to have more tourist visits in other states of
Malaysia, including Terengganu which is known for its enchanted seas
There are no official figures yet to indicate the gross income
Malaysia generated out of Tourism in 2002-2003, but industry sources
say that the sector's growth did not slow down since 2003.
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