“BUSINESS has been particularly slow since last month for all of us here, although we already felt some slowdown effects last November,” Raja says in reference to the sales of hotel-reservation counters at the KL International Airport (KLIA).
“We are so free most of the day now that it feels like we can actually start a soccer session here,” he adds.
Being the main gateway into Malaysia, KLIA helps to gauge how the worsening economic crisis is affecting travellers. Based on the words of the ground workers, it is obvious that things are not looking good, as their businesses have been affected by the drastic fall in the number of travellers.
Raja, who has been mending a reservation counter at KLIA for a leading hotel for three years, estimates the sales at his counter to have fallen by 20% to 30% since January.
Raja’s sentiment is shared by Azman – the manager of a cafe in KLIA – who also estimates his business to have shrunk around 20% to 30% since last month.
“We don’t see as many Westerners these days. Most of them who come are business travellers, but we still see a lot of Chinese and Indian visitors,” Azman says.
Azman is now looking forward to the months of June to July, when the “Arab visitors season” begins.
“Hopefully, business will be brisk then,” he says.
Meanwhile, Azman is looking at cutting his costs by 20% to 30% by controlling his orders and limiting the staff number to counter this downturn in his business.
It is also not so easy for KLIA limousine drivers, Azhar and Rizal, who have started feeling the strain on their businesses since last November.
“We just have to work harder and longer hours to the point of staying overnight at the airport to wait for customers,” they say.
Both Azhar and Rizal say tourist arrivals are so few and far in between that most of their businesses are with local residents returning from their travel. Even then, they say, businesses have dropped by 40% since late last year.
For another taxi driver, Dom, he is banking on travellers at the low-cost-carrier terminal (LCCT) to save his day.
“KLIA is just too quiet for my business ... but it is okay at the LCCT. Then again, most of my passengers are local travellers, and very few are foreign travellers,” he says.