IN 2019, RM92.6 billion was recorded for domestic tourism expenditure, RM89.4 billion for inbound and RM44.8 billion for outbound. Combined, they amounted to a hefty RM226.8 billion.

In 2020, domestic tourism expenditure decreased by 58% to RM38.7 billion, inbound fell by 85% to RM13.7 billion and outbound dropped by 62% to RM17.1 billion, all due to travel restrictions. Therefore, combined tourism expenditures for domestic, inbound and outbound plummeted by 69% from RM226.8 billion in 2019 to only RM69.5 billion last year.

It would take a long time for international travel to regain its former glory, having reached its acme in 2019, before being brought crushing down in 2020 by the Covid-19 pandemic. For tourism businesses that were reduced to ashes, what are their chances of being resurrected?

As the world will continuously be disrupted by future pandemics, natural disasters, terrorism, armed conflicts and major wars, the future certainly looks bleak. But then again, human beings will get numb to such threats and will carry on with life as usual.

And if they can brush aside the spectre of war and doomsday clock ticking ever closer to midnight, they are not going to allow any coronavirus to stop them from travelling and enjoying what the world has to offer.

Tourism will recover even when it is not totally safe to travel.

Therefore, it would be pointless to continue with lockdowns such as imposing travel restrictions within the country and tightening borders to choke the flow of citizens and foreigners entering and leaving our country. Lives must be saved but so too livelihoods.

As Covid-19 is expected to become endemic in Malaysia by the end of October, we will have to learn to live with the coronavirus. While citizens are reminded to change and adjust to live in the new normal, the authorities must first lead the way by replacing old measures with new.

But antiquated mindsets could cause more harm than good. The revised Malaysia My Second Home programme have sent ripples across foreign communities, affecting not only retirees living here but also deterring foreign visitors, students, businesses and investments.

The tagline “Malaysia Truly Asia” had successfully projected our country’s image that we could showcase to the world the best that Asia could offer, having benefited from large numbers of people and their cultures from the west, south, southeast and east Asia settling in Malaysia.

But retrogressive leadership would send our nation into the backwaters. What we need are concrete steps to lift millions out of poverty, more so as the B40 group has grown
much bigger.

We need genuine efforts by our leaders to bring real benefits to the people, such as job opportunities, raising income, advancing healthcare and overhauling education.

All these need funding, and tourism can contribute immensely. No other business requires lesser capital that could bring the highest return on investment within the shortest time. This would only happen when tourist and business-friendly policies are put
in place.

YS Chan is a master trainer for Mesra Malaysia and an Asean Tourism Master Trainer. He is also a tourism and transport business consultant and writer, and researcher for the Travel Industry Occupational Framework published by the Department of Skills Development. Comments: