For the people in charge of promoting tourism in Malaysia, events over the weekend added even more misery to an already terrible March. The tourism ministry was a promoter of the Future Music Festival Asia, a three-day series of concerts in Kuala Lumpur. But after six people died in what local media reported were drug-related incidents, organizers pulled the plug. “The health and safety of our patrons is of upmost importance to us and we are extremely devastated that circumstances such as these occurred despite the significant planning and resources in place,” Future Music Festival Asia said on its website. “The organizers are overwhelmed with sadness at this time.”
The music festival tragedy, coming in the midst of worldwide attention to Malaysia’s aviation- and transportation-safety record, is the latest blow to the country’s tourism industry. Malaysians had great hopes for 2014. To be sure, the country lacks the obvious appeal of neighboring Thailand, with its famed beaches, but with Thailand in turmoil as anti-government protesters disrupted life in the capital, Malaysia was well-positioned as a safe, stable Southeast Asian alternative.