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Loss of Flight 370 may have effect on travel to Malaysia

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Has the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight 370 nearly two weeks ago had an effect on travel to the Asian country?

It depends on who you talk to.

A German-based travel website says it has seen a 22% drop in searches among U.S. users for hotels in Malaysia since the flight disappeared. But Malaysian tourism officials say they have seen no significant drop in travel to the country.

The Boeing 777, carrying 239 people, disappeared March 8, sparking a massive search across miles of open sea and theories that range from terrorism to alien abduction.

The hotel booking site Trivago said it has seen a 22% drop in U.S. users searching for hotels in Malaysia in the 10 days after the plane disappeared, compared to the same period before the plane went missing.

The site also reported an 18% drop in searches for Malaysian hotels from Australian users and a 22% drop in searches from New Zealand.

But a senior Malaysian government official said the percentage of seats filled on flights to Malaysia, including Malaysia Airlines, "have not shown any drastic reduction."

"Some business travelers may have opted for alternative carriers, but large tour groups have gone [to Malaysia] as usual," Malaysia tourism director general Mirza Mohammad Taiyab told reporters in India, where he was promoting tourism to his country. "Leisure and vacation tourism have also remained at the same levels."

India is Malaysia's top source of tourism and Taiyab's government is on a campaign to boost travel from India even further.

Still, other Malaysian tourism officials visiting India told reporters that they expect a drop in travel from China because most of the passengers on flight 370 were from China.

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Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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