Perhaps having been reminded that the LGBT Community is estimated by LGBT Capital to represent some US$3.6 trillion of annual spending power and that LGBT inbound tourism accounts for well over 1% of annual GDP in neighbouring Thailand, Malaysia’s tourism ministry on Thursday (7 March) seemingly stated that it would not prevent LGBT people from visiting the country - a statement which followed rather ‘shortly’ after a very public statement earlier this week by the country’s tourism minister Mohammaddin Ketapi’s that ‘I don’t think we have anything like that [homosexuals] in our country’.
Thursday’s statement claimed the minister was actually commenting that there was no LGBT tourism campaign in the country. It also said there were no plans for such a campaign in the future. ‘As a main tourism destination in Asia, Malaysia has never and will not do anything to stop our guests based on their sexual orientation, religion and cultural belief,’ it said. The ministry also said that Malaysia had its own stand and laws on LGBT issues (e.g. homosexuality is illegal in Malaysia where a colonial-era law permits punishment of gay sex with up to 20 years imprisonment) and that such laws should be respected by visitors: ‘These laws must be respected and followed, not just by foreign tourists but Malaysians as well’ the statement said.
Increasing harassment and anti-LGBT rhetoric in Malaysia, as well as Indonesia, is very worrying for the LGBT citizens of these countries and will also increasingly deter LGBT international tourism to these two countries, likely to the increased benefit of significantly more enlightened and forward-thinking Thailand.
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