Illustrative image (Photo: Internet)

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak occurred at a bad time, as Malaysia is pushing its "Visit Malaysia 2020" programme to stimulate its stuttering economy, an tourism official said on February 19th.

Tourism accounts for 11.8 percent of Malaysia's gross domestic product (GDP), with 28 million foreign visitors coming to the Southeast Asian country last year, 11 percent of them from China.

While numbers on tourist arrivals for January aren't yet available, Malaysia has imposed a temporary ban on visitors from Chinese provinces placed on lockdown by the Chinese government, in a bid to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Malaysia has reported 22 confirmed cases so far.

Musa Yusof, director-general of government agency Tourism Malaysia, said more efforts are being made to encourage travel amongst Malaysians to stimulate the economy and hence, counter the losses due to the decline in foreign tourists.

He said the agency also had a strategy of ramping up promotions in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Central Asia and South Asia./.

CPV/VNA