PETALING JAYA: Malaysia’s main tourism association has urged the government to review restrictions on travel in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis.
Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) president Tan Kok Liang said the tourism industry, which employs over 3.5 million people, cannot recover as long as there were restrictions on travel.
Tan said the tourism industry players understood the severity of the pandemic and knew how to ensure the health and safety of travellers and the local community.
“We are confident of selling the country again. What we need to do now is give people the confidence that it is safe to travel. Covid-19 is here to stay for a while until a vaccine is found,” he told FMT
He said that in China, domestic travel was allowed again and the industry had shown encouraging signs of recovery over the May Day holiday with 115 million trips made following weeks of Covid-19 lockdown.
“Tourism dies without connectivity, whether it is domestic tourism or foreigners coming in. Now we can’t sell anything because of travel restrictions,” he said, adding that overseas inquiries were coming in.
He urged the government to introduce special certification for places which complied with health and safety requirements to boost the confidence of travellers.
“The bottom line is that the market will drive tourism if we allow it. We must trust people to look after their own health and trust the authorities’ capabilities to manage the situation.
“As long as policies are not conducive, no amount of promotions or gimmicks can help the industry.”
Hamzah Rahmat, a director at international destination management company Discova, said it was likely that international tourists would only start to trickle in next year.
Even then, he said, they were likely to comprise free independent travellers (FIT) rather than groups.
“Group travel will still be there, their days are not over. They will come back but much later,” Hamzah, a Matta past president, said.
He said tour operators should now plan to promote FIT packages tailored to the demands of these travellers.
Malaysian Tourist Guides Council president Jimmy Leong said there was a need to resolve some longstanding issues to help the industry recover.
“Neighbouring countries such as Thailand and Vietnam have caught up with us. Take toilets, for example. Forty years ago, toilets at eateries were dirty and not much has changed. Clean facilities are needed to cater to the new breed of tourists,” he said.
He hoped the government could assist tour guides by waiving licence fees for the next two years.