Sunday, March 21, 2010

Bad Press and Tourism

As some of you already know, I plan to visit Java some time this year. A few weeks ago, I went to the Kinokuniya Bookstore in KLCC, where I bought a Lonely Planet guide for Indonesia. I also browsed the Chinese section. To my surprise, with the exception of a few books on Bali, I didn’t see a single title for Indonesia.

Indonesia is a beautiful country full of adventures, yet most Malaysian tourists only go to Bali and Danau Toba. I doubt many Taiwanese tourists have ventured out of the Hindu enclave. Why hasn’t the island nation become a popular tourist destination?

While there are many factors which explain the lack of interest in Indonesia, I think bad press partially contributes to it. Ethnic and religious conflicts, bombings in Bali and Jakarta, corruption, Syaria law in Aceh – you name it. All these, coupled with natural calamities, have had a negative impact on tourism.

Worse yet, probably because of poverty, some Indonesians like to cheat foreigners. This is how a member of Virtual Tourist describes the Javanese:

BE CAREFUL on the Probolinggo bus station. The [most unfriendly] people in the world live in Java and particularly in this town.


Back to my own country. Malaysia is also plagued by bad press. There have also been quite a few ethnic and religious conflicts, such as the arson attack on churches recently. The state of Kelantan has for years banned the sale of alcohol, and imposed gender segregation in shops. A few years ago, a religious enforcement team raided a hotel to search for people who committed the khalwat offence, and in the process they harassed foreign tourists.

Of course, Malaysia still enjoys a better image than Indonesia, but can we be complacent?

Khalwat = proximity, where intimate contact is possible, between a male and female who have no marriage or kin relationship


  1. bad press definitely causes bad impression.

  2. Bad press is everywhere. And people preying on tourists are also everywhere. Not specifically confined to certain countries only.

  3. Yes, agree that we are doing better off compared to Indonesia and definitely better than Thailand. :D

  4. I think how the respective goverments promote and support the tourism industry may count....

  5. Dude, do you know who is the main controller of the press in Malaysia? Who said Kelantan ban alcohol? ... This is all lovely govt trying to draw people attention and control us to read whatever they wanna us to know... So who give out bad press? I bet everyone here know about it...

  6. i still remember the case where the religious police harassed an American couple in langkawi, which resulted in their abandonment of their plan to retire in m'sia. what a shame...

  7. wenn
    Ya, correct...

    Mei Ting
    Every country has bad press, but some are worst than the others.

    Actually, before the ouster of Thaksin in 2006, Thailand enjoyed a better image than Malaysia.

    Do you know that backpackers often 'discover' the gems of a country before local government learns to appreciate it?

    Who control the press? Bernama.

    That's the case I am referring to.

  8. and it also depends on how well the government is marketing the country's tourism in the international stage..

  9. i think sooner or later msia will have more and more bad press coverage compared to indon. look at the hilarious political news and whatever riots in our country everyday, i doubt people will be interested to visit msia at all

  10. Political stability is important. A place free from natural disasters and calamities and friendly people who speak a common language. I guess these are what the tourists wants.

  11. Some countries have a bad reputation which is completely unjustified. For instance, I find China extremely safe to travel in, even if some people may not like the government, it's unlikely that it will affect them. Most places I have been to in Central America had a very bad reputation and most of the time without a good reason.

    People let politics get in the way... They don't understand the culture so they reject it.

  12. I visited Surabaya few years ago.. it is a nice place and Jon and I were very much enjoyed.. especially the people there are very nice also.. :))

  13. SK
    Please read my reply to Grass.

    Hmm... I hope things won't turn out so bad for Malaysia.

    Autumn Belle
    Agree, political stability is important.

    Bad press travels faster than good news.

    I am going to the places you had been to.