Extension Of Travel Ban Spells Doom For Many In Tourism and Events Industry

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The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) remained indifferent towards the Ministry of Health (MOH) Director General Noor Hisham’s recommendation that the travel ban between states and districts may stay on until 70 percent of the population is vaccinated.

MATTA’s Secretary General, Nigel Wong Chun Teim said that the recommendation of the travel ban is impractical and untenable given the current situation.

“Nothing of any significant importance has been done to ease the burden of one of Malaysia’s largest income generators. Malaysian tourism players will be hard pressed to regain its competitive footing once the world starts to re-open borders.

Many hotels and agencies have shut down, not to mention the many tourism professionals who have been permanently displaced. It will be disastrous not just for tourism but for the economy as a whole,” he said.

“From the industry player, if the travel ban is not lifted within another six months, I believe 80 percent of the current agency and operator will not be able to sustain with current cash flow and might see massive amounts of the travel related companies will be closed down or bankrupted,” Tourplus’ Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Founder, Rickson Goh added. 

According to Tourplus, there are still a small portion of people willing to travel within the states like staycation or day tour within states. 

CEO and Founder of Tixcarte, Parthiven Shan shares a similar sentiment. 

“The international travel ban was expected to stay on until countries are able to vaccinate a reasonable percentage of their population. Domestic travel is going to be the driver soon with travellers looking to explore hidden jewels within the country,” he said.

On February 25, Senior Minister of Security, Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced plans to allow meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions (MICE) events in Movement Control Order (MCO) areas, starting March 5.

However, there is still confusion among tourism industry players even though MICE events will be opening with a limited capacity of 25 percent or a maximum participant of 250 people.

“There is still a lot of hesitancy in the market when it comes to tourism and MICE as both are very much inter-related. The current standard operating procedures (SOPs) are also not conducive to certain types of MICE events as well especially those that target the general consumer.”

Putrajaya must look at alternative and more efficient ways to control the movement of people in relation to the spread of Covid-19 such as interstate travel must be allowed to allow the economy (not just tourism) to recuperate,” Nigel said.

MICE activities have already been kickstarted in states under conditional and recovery MCO according to the Senior Minister.

“Unfortunately, there was no mention of a domestic travel recovery plan or SOPs since MICE is related to domestic travel due to company incentives tours and business conferences tours. We hope the government will give a clear instruction on domestic travel recovery plans soon,” Rickson added.

Rickson said while the Wage Subsidy Programme and PRIHATIN programme is good to have but the governments’ initiatives are only temporary and are not suited for the long-term.“Domestic travel needs to be started for industry recovery, and when the borders can be open, only then industry players will start totarget inbound and outbound travel,” Rickson concluded.

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