KOTA KINABALU: Tourism players in Sabah are urging for the extension of stimulus assistance packages to ensure the sustainability of the industry amid a drop in business due to the Covid-19 pandemic.Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) president Datuk Tan Kok Liang said apart from boosting travellers’ confidence via the adoption of strict hygiene standards, it was also vital to boost cash flow for players.
He said the provision of financial relief, especially the wage subsidy and employment retention programme, appears to be ineffective.
“With the recovery movement control order (MCO) extended to Aug 31 and restrictions on easing of borders, the majority of small and medium (SME) tourism companies that specialise in foreign inbound tourists, transportation, ticketing and outbound tourism have zero revenue for six months, ” he said.
“It is likely to take at least 12 to 24 months for containment, stabilisation and recovery before people and businesses can return to normalcy, ” Tan said during a recent Tourism Engagement Session attended by State Minister for Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Christina Liew.
He pressed for further enhancement of the financial assistance package as businesses were struggling to survive due to “severe cash flow problems, absence or a sharp dip in revenue and high overheads”, and hoped that the state ministry could provide direct funding to Sabah-based tour operators.
Tan also called for an extension of the stimulus package that gives temporary relief for B40 groups, to address the issue of staff retention and prevent over a million tourism employees from losing their jobs.
On domestic tourism, he emphasised the importance of consistent communication with travellers to ensure that it was safe to travel locally, adding that the market segment was targeted at the 1.2 million civil servants.
He said although insufficient, domestic travel was needed to invigorate the whole economy through spin-off effects in the value chain.
“To make things happen, we need smart partnership with airlines, hotels and tourism companies in providing affordable airfares and flexibility in reservations and coming up with attractive tour packages, ” Tan added.
He said as nations looked to ease travel restrictions, travel bubble concepts could be explored, starting with safe travel routes within Asean countries that had effectively contained the spread of Covid-19.
Meanwhile, MATTA Sabah chapter chairman Lawrence Chin is proposing a direct injection of RM10,000 for each Sabah-based licensed company to defray urgent overheads as a gesture of goodwill and encouragement.
According to Chin, tour operators and travel agencies are still retaining their staff despite businesses being badly hit since the MCO started, in the hope that things will rebound by 2021.
The Sabah Association of Tour and Travel Agents proposed that for starters, a charter flight be organised to bring in Chinese entrepreneurs and cultural associations to kickstart international tourism.
Its president Datuk Seri Winston Liaw said this would be one way to convince the world that it was safe to travel to Sabah.
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