Malaysia's largest halal trade fair, the Malaysia International Halal Showcase (MIHAS), is postponed, the organisers said in an email citing the COVID-19 outbreak.
"This difficult decision was reached after extensive consultation with industry in the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak on travel all across Asia Pacific, and the overall impact it would have on the event," Ahmad Dzuhri Abdul Wahab, Managing Director of organiser HW Lima Sdn Bhd said in the email.
The event, scheduled to take place April 1-4 will be moved to September 1-4.
Dr Barbara Ruiz Bejarano, director of international relations at Spain's Instituto Halal, told Salaam Gateway that following the cancellation of the World Mobile Congress in Barcelona because of the virus outbreak, she and her colleagues bought insurance on their flights to Kuala Lumpur to attend MIHAS on the off-chance that the event would be postponed or cancelled. The Congress was scheduled for end-Febuary.
Instituto Halal says it understands the organiser's decision that caters to the good of all participants, and hopes that the situation will improve to contribute to a successful MIHAS 2020.
Instituto Halal is not an exhibitor at this year's MIHAS but participates in and attends the event annually.
Singapore-based WhatsHalal, which was also planning to travel to KL for MIHAS, told Salaam Gateway: "We understand and applaud the proactive move by MIHAS’s organizers against the advancement of COVID-19."
Singapore has been hard hit by the virus outbreak. Just yesterday the government unveiled its 2020 budget that comprises around 4 billion Singapore dollars in a support package for workers and firms affected by the outbreak that forced authorities to slash tourism targets by up to 30%.
In Malaysia, the COVID-19 outbreak situation is being managed by the ministry of health, National Disaster Management Agency and other ministries and agencies chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.
As of Feb 18, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said Malaysia had 22 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with no deaths reported.
Regardless, the MIHAS organiser said it takes the safeguarding of the health and wellbeing of its sponsors, exhibitors and visitors as "top priority".
The virus outbreak that started in late December in China has hit the travel and tourism industry of Southeast Asia, with the Malaysian central bank saying on Feb 12 the country’s economy will be affected by the virus outbreak, as it will see fewer foreign tourists -- especially from China -- and lower spending on hotels, retail, transport, and restaurants.
Hosted by the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MITI), MIHAS is an important event on the Malaysian trade calendar. The Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE) reported a 5.7% increase in sales from MIHAS 2019 to reach 1.6 billion ringgit ($390 million) from 1.5 billion ringgit in 2018.
Last year the trade fair reported 870 companies exhibiting, representing 44 countries, and 29,946 visitors.
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