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PUBLISHED: Nov 19, 2014 7:00am

Mud flood slows down flow of tourists to Cameron Highlands

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FERNANDO FONG By:
Fernando Fong

The lobby of the Copthorne Hotel in Cameron Highlands which has seen many cancellations following the mud flood in Bertam Valley. — TRP pic by Fernando Fong

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CAMERON HIGHLANDS, Nov 19, 2014:

It’s de ja vu for hoteliers in Cameron Highlands.

This after hotels in major towns in Cameron Highlands recorded a fall in their occupancy rates since  the deadly mud flood in Bertam Valley earlier this month.

This was a conundrum hoteliers found themselves in following the aftermath of a mud flood that struck Bertam Valley in Oct 23 last year.

Hoteliers approached by The Rakyat Post yesterday claimed they received many cancellations due to concerns that Cameron Highlands could experience another natural disaster.

Cameron Highlands Copthorne Hotel general manager Patrick Tee said the Saturday following the mud flood was the first time in the year that the hotel had vacant rooms on a weekend.

Tee estimated a 30% drop in occupancy.

“People are worried because they thought that the mudslide in Bertam Valley had affected major towns and tourist attractions.”

He, however, said a handful of guests changed their minds and decided not to cancel their bookings after his staff explained the situation.

“If the mudslide incident occurred during the peak season, such as during school holidays in December, the hotels would have been hit even worse.”

Wan Saleh Ismail, operator of budget hostel TJ Lodge in Tanah Rata, had received more than 30 cancellations since the incident.

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A staff at TJ Lodge showing a occupancy chart indicating unoccupied rooms. — TRP pic by Fernando Fong

The occupancy rate at the hotel is less than 10% at the moment.

Wan Saleh, however, hopes the coming peak season in December will help offset the heavy drop experienced recently.

“I will also have to keep my fingers crossed that no natural disasters will happen again.”

The slightest negative reports, Wan Saleh said, would scare the people away, even if it did not actually happen in major towns such as Brinchang and Tanah Rata.

Boutique hotel owner Siva Dass said the hoteliers were suffering as a direct effect from the news coverage on the mudslide.

The media, he said, failed to point out that Cameron Highlands consisted of several towns.

“This gives an impression that the entire region is in danger, especially for those who are not familiar with the geography of Cameron Highlands.

“The emphasis should be on the exact location of the mud flood.”

Tourist destinations, such as the scenic Boh Tea Centre in Sg Palas, were also affected.

Both Tea Centre tour guide R. Parthi said there were many cancellations, especially by schools.

The state education department, he said, prohibited visits to Cameron Highlands for the time being.

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