Health of consumers a factor on 24-hour eateries: Tourism Malaysia DG

KUALA LUMPUR: While Malaysia is proud to be regarded as a food heaven, the health of consumers should also be taken into account when considering the operating hours of restaurants.

Tourism Malaysia Director-General Datuk Seri Mirza Mohammad Taiyab said this today in response to a proposal by the Health Ministry to the Cabinet Committee for a Healthy-Promoting Environment to limit the hours of 24-hour eateries in the country, as part of a 13-point policy.

"We have always been known, especially by tourists, as a food heaven. So the more the offering, the better. But health is just as equally important," Mirza said today.

Health Minister Datuk Seri S. Subramaniam had yesterday said the move needed the approval of various quarters and ministries, including the Tourism and Culture Ministry.

When asked if Tourism Malaysia is open to such a policy, Mirza said he is not in the position to comment, adding that he has not yet received any official communication regarding the matter.

"You need to get the ministry for the policy side of things. We (Tourism Malaysia) will study the implications, discuss with the industry and provide our official statement then.

"But personally, if you look at my size, I think the move is good. At least for our own sake, I think it's good to be disciplined a bit," he told reporters, after attending the Malaysian Inbound Tourism Association (Mita) Travel Fair 2018, here.

Mita president Uzaidi Udanis also echoed Mirza's stand, saying limiting the operating hours of the eateries could help address the various health and social issues in the country.

"If you look at other countries and cities, they too probably do not operate for 24 hours. In fact, Australia only allows some places to open until 5pm," he said.

On the Mita Travel Fair, Uzaidi said about 75,000 visitors are expected, compared with 55,000 last year.

The three-day event at the Malaysia International Trade and Exhibition Centre (Mitec) started today.

The fair, which is in its third year, provides various travel promotions of up to 90%, including discounts on travel packages, flight tickets and theme park tickets.

The event, which was officiated by Tourism Malaysia Datuk Siew Ka Wei, will also host the Malaysia Food Festival.

Meanwhile, Siew disclosed that the country recorded 21.5 million tourist arrivals between January and October last year, a 2.5% decline compared with the same period the previous year.

He, however, assured that the government was addressing the issue, with various plans in hand, and that the country is expected to welcome 36 million tourists - bringing in RM168 billion - in 2020, which was declared by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak as the Visit Malaysia year.