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Tourism sector needs govt aid, say industry players

29 May 2020 / 16:27 H.

LANGKAWI: The federal government should pay special attention to the plight of the travel trade community due to the severe damage that the Covid-19 pandemic has caused to the industry.

With losses expected to exceed RM100 billion, the various travel trade associations and federations want the Finance Ministry to subsidise part of the costs in rehabilitating the industry back to its past.

Tourism was the second biggest earner of foreign currency exchange for Malaysia while the industry contributed 15% to the gross domestic produce (GDP), hired close to 3.5 million workers and was slated to earn up to RM100 billion in revenue this year until the “Visit Malaysia Year 2020” campaign was scrapped.

Former Malaysian Association of Travel and Tours Agents (Matta) Kedah chapter chairman Eric R. Sinnaya spoke of embracing the new norms in reinventing tourism following the emergence of the virus.

But to undertake the new norms, he agrees with the suggestion by former Tourism, Culture and Arts Deputy Minister Muhammad Bakthiar Wan Chik, who mooted for a special multi-million ringgit specific stimulus package.

Sinnaya said the priority now is to salvage jobs and to rationalise businesses so they can adjust to the new norms of fewer number of travellers, but at the same time, a need to keep costs low despite requirements such as social distancing, public health checks besides a digitalised surveillance system to prevent a recurrence of infections.

“The private sector alone cannot do it anymore. We need government help. We need an injection of subsidies and new incentives to rebuild tourism,“ he said.

Malaysian Association of Hotels chief executive officer Yap Lip Seng urged the government to consider subsiding air fares to ensure that the burden does not fall solely on travellers who are technically also tourists.

Yap also alluded to the possibility of hotels merging their properties to keep costs low and to save jobs.

In Penang, its state executive councillor in charge of tourism, Yeoh Soon Hin, said the state’s official policy on tourism was now based on 5Rs of “ Rethink, Reset, Recover, Rebrand and Restart” the industry.

Yeoh expects the first batch of tourists to start returning by next month with the momentum building up to next year.

“After the global tourism industry was hit by Covid-19, we need to ‘rethink’ our perspective and tourism stand for future as trust is the new invaluable currency.”

Yeoh said the industry players must work extra hard to restore trust after the pandemic swept through the public healthcare systems.

“Everything that we know needs a reset. It is about the next norm now for tourism and anticipating what travellers need to be confident in Penang as a destination.”

Yeoh said the state was actively meeting industry players in a series of round tables to develop the 5Rs strategy.

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