With three more reported new coronavirus cases in Malaysia, bringing the total to seven, and the temporary ban of Chinese visitors from the city of Wuhan and the surrounding Hubei province, can the government maintain its target of 30 million tourists arrivals for Visit Malaysia 2020(VMY2020)?
The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) together with key industry stakeholders held discussions with the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture (MOTAC) and the Ministry of Health (MOH) on the challenges ahead and ways to assist the Malaysia tourism industry to weather the storm.
According to MATTA, industry stakeholders are worried about the effect this will have on Visit Malaysia 2020, as there have been mass cancellations for both inbound and outbound tours to and from China.
“The tourism industry will certainly be impacted by lesser number of tourists from China, which is the world’s largest outbound market. MATTA hopes the situation can be contained in the short term, otherwise, the repercussion will be severe as it will affect the tourism on a global scale,” MATTA President Datuk Tan Kok Liang says.
But, Datuk Mohamaddin Ketapi, Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, dismisses concerns that the coronavirus outbreak will hit tourist numbers as the temporary suspension’s impact will be minimal.
“The government is still targeting 30 million tourist arrivals, with RM100 billion in tourism receipts for VMY2020. If there is a small impact, it is from Wuhan, we are not talking about people from Australia or the UK,” he says during a press conference.
China is the third largest tourist arrivals into Malaysia, after Singapore and Indonesia. A total of 2.94 million Chinese nationals visited in 2018, as compared to 2.28 million in 2017.
MATTA has called on hotels, airlines, tour operators and other service providers to be flexible in cancellation policies. They are also working closely with local authorities to ensure the safety and security of tourists and tourism frontliners.
Meanwhile, the government has suspended all immigration services to Chinese nationals from Wuhan and Hubei province, including Electronic Travel Registration and Information, Visa on Arrival, electronic visa and manual visa.
The tourism, arts and culture ministry also announced that they will set up a Tourism Recovery Committee to reduce the virus’ effects on tourism in Malaysia.
Tan added that MATTA is in full support of the government’s efforts in containing the threat and the measures put in place.