Foreign visitors key to recovery of tourism sector

06 Aug 2020 / 13:00 H.

GEORGE TOWN: Despite a rise in domestic tourism, international travellers remain the key to the tourism sector’s recovery from the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Around the globe, cross-border travel remains significantly restricted, making a vacation overseas almost impossible.

While the sector has seen a marginal pickup in sales, it was mostly contributed by domestic tourists.

This will be one of the many issues which must be addressed when the Pacific-Asia Travel Mart (Pata) holds its annual conference from Sept 23 to 27.

For the first time in its 69-year history, members will meet virtually to avoid a physical gathering, among other precautions deemed necessary to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Pata is a business-to-business networking event.

In Malaysia, players in the tourism sector, especially in hospitality, have had to bring prices down to rock-bottom levels in a bid to woo domestic tourists, given that foreign travel to Malaysia is still restricted.

But for players in the industry, the wait for foreign tourists with much deeper pockets has been agonising.

“We need foreigners to come visit us, but none are coming,” National Tourism Council member Eric R. Sinnaya told theSun yesterday.

Tourism is the third largest contributor to Malaysia’s gross domestic product (GDP). It accounted for 13.3% of the nation’s GDP in 2018, most of which was contributed by inbound tourism mainly from countries such as China, India, Europe and the US.

The outlook remains uncertain despite the recent growth in domestic tourism.

Costs have risen for hotels and other segments as prices have been slashed to woo domestic travellers.

Requirements such as sanitisation have also pushed costs up while the need for social distancing has reduced revenue, industry players said.

As a result of the downturn, many jobs have been lost, and hotels are still unprepared to beef up their workforce again to meet rising demands.

Recruitment website JobStreet reported that 63% of workers in the industry have lost their jobs or given temporary leave, but there has only been a 22.8% rise in job vacancy advertisements.

Kedah/Perlis Malaysian Association of Travel and Tour Agents chairman Mohd Yusin Mohd Yatim said it was still difficult to offer jobs despite the return of domestic tourists and help from the government’s many stimulus packages.

“Most companies are still taking a guarded approach,” he told theSun.

He said the issue at hand was determining how to sustain interest in domestic tourism, especially after the moratorium on loan repayments expires.

The moratorium was originally scheduled to end in September, but the government announced that it will be extended by another three months for selected borrowers.

Read this story in theSun’s iPaper:

Foreign visitors key to recovery of tourism sector

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