Recovery in motion

Home attractions: There are many interesting places such as the Petronas Twin Towers, to visit. — RAJA FAISAL HISHAN/The Star

AS the tourism and hospitality industry continues to face an unprecedented level of trials amid the coronavirus pandemic, its survival and success will depend on how its stakeholders react and adapt to the situation.

According to the Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH), the hotel industry alone is expected to have lost as much as RM6.54bil in revenue last year.

Since March last year, 109 hotels, resorts, motels, homestays and chalets have shut for good. And as of May, job losses were at 12,000 or 6% of the industry’s workforce.

According to the Malaysian Association of Amusement Theme Parks and Family Attractions (MAATFA), the estimated losses in revenue between March and December add up to RM2.8bil.

Job losses are expected to total 2,543, with 420 workers being let go in December alone.

Despite all the losses, pressures and difficulties, the industry is expected to recover by the second quarter of this year, especially after the vaccines are made available to the community.

Industry players should be ready to go all out and adapt to the new normal by conducting their operations differently.

Apart from adhering to strict standard operating procedures (SOP), it is crucial to invest in technology and integrate it into the business.

It will help to rebuild travel confidence among tourists and offer a new era of safe, seamless and contactless travel in a post-Covid-19 world.

In the meantime, international travel may take some time to recover. There is a lot more work to be done, particularly regarding government policies, such as lifting the quarantine requirements and issuing vaccination certificates.Since travel is a big part of people’s lifestyles, domestic tourism will play an important role in the industry’s recovery. In Malaysia, a total of RM200mil has been allocated for the Tourism Recovery Plan under Budget 2021.

As mentioned by Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri, the ministry will be implementing several initiatives such as discounts for tourist destinations, family holiday packages, arts and culture promotions, accommodation vouchers, and the ‘‘Meet in Malaysia” campaign.

One of the key stakeholders in the tourism and hospitality industry that will benefit from this development will be the schools of tourism and hospitality in higher education institutions and their future graduates.

If the recovery programmes are fully implemented by the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry, the industry will prosper with job opportunities for these graduates.

Although the existing curriculum is still relevant to current realities, tourism and hospitality education needs to adapt to this era of technology.

From an educational perspective, now is the turning point to encourage students to be more innovative, and to equip them with the knowledge and skills of technopreneurship in place of entrepreneurship.

It is time to change their mindset from being a jobseeker to a job creator. They should be groomed and trained to be a technopreneur who can turn challenges into opportunities.

On top of that, students should be furnished with new skills that are relevant to the post-Covid-19 world. Among them is customer experience management since customers these days demand a highly personalised experience when they interact with service providers through a range of channels. Short courses, seminars and workshops should be made readily available for students to attend. In addition, educators should go the extra mile to organise dialogues with industry partners and governing bodies to keep themselves updated with the current trends to ensure their course offerings are relevant to the industry needs.Furthermore, it is vital to accentuate health and safety measures because a future-fit industry will have a greater sense of duty to take care of its customers and make them feel safe.

With all these in place, upon the completion of their studies, students will have the exposure, knowledge and skills needed to innovate and adapt to the upcoming trends.Back to the subject of domestic tourism, the “Cuti-Cuti Malaysia” initiatives have been actively promoted since last year.

There are so many interesting places in our country waiting to be explored, including trips that are absolute treats for the local palette, nature immersion tours for the health conscious, and excursions that interweave our unique culture, heritage and arts.

While Malaysians are excited to travel again, it is important to comply with the SOP enforced by the government and industry to ensure safe travel.

Let us be positive that this year will be better than the last.

This is a significant period for all stakeholders, a time for better reflection and innovation, towards a better and more sustainable tourism future.

Norhaslinda Jamaluddin is a lecturer at SEGi College Kuala Lumpur’s School of Hospitality, Tourism & Culinary Arts. Norhaslinda holds a Master in hospitality management and has been in the hospitality industry for over 20 years. The views expressed here are the writer’s own.

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