Tourism players: Allow interstate travel so we can survive

PETALING JAYA: For the tourism and hotel industry to survive in the coming months, the government must allow interstate travel, says the Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH).

MAH chief executive officer Yap Lip Seng said the recent lifting of the inter-district travel ban was a positive move but interstate travel was still much needed.

“The survival of the tourism and hotel industry lies in interstate travel and eventually, international arrivals, ” he said.

The government is still considering whether to allow interstate travel but this will depend on the Covid-19 zone designation of areas where a journey starts and ends, says Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob.

The Senior Minister (Security) said on March 4 that this possibility was being discussed but there were many issues to resolve before such travel could be allowed.

For every two weeks of the movement control order, the hotel industry loses about RM300mil in revenue, according to MAH.

The MAH research and development financial chart showed that the industry lost RM6.53bil last year due to the pandemic.

Yap said there were demands for local travel and staycations but only states that had natural attractions like highlands, beaches and islands benefitted from the ban on interstate travel.

“Smaller states would not gain much from leisure tourism and need interstate movements to boost their business, ” he added.

With the lifting of the MCO, there were opportunities for corporate and government agencies to organise meetings and events at hotels as well as controlled social events, Yap said.

“There are already enquiries about business event-related activities or Meeting, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (Mice) at some hotels, indicating a positive outlook ahead.

“The hotel industry also hopes for more support from the federal and state governments, as well as other local agencies and councils to keep their business going, ” he said.

Yap also welcomed the recent announcement on safe travel for business travellers by the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (Mida).

On March 3, the government launched Malaysia’s Safe Travel portal to facilitate the entry of business travellers into the country.

Mida said the portal contained information and advisory services for both short-term and long-term business travellers.

Malaysian Association of Hotel Owners (Maho) executive director Shaharuddin M. Saaid also agreed with Yap’s view, saying that interstate travel should be allowed to help the ailing hotel industry.

“Inter-district does not make much of a difference because most of our members comprise four- and five-star hotels.

“We do not get many local customers and the majority of them are from outstation.”

Giving an example, he said, locals in Langkawi or Penang will not go to four- and five-star hotels for short getaways and as such, interstate travel is still where their business interests lie.

He noted that the association members were still struggling after losing their revenue for over a year.

“If we continue like this, some of our members might have to shut down within one or two months as many cannot sustain their business anymore, ” he added.

“If interstate travel is allowed, there will be more customers. At least they will have some money to keep the business afloat.”

Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) president Datuk Tan Kok Liang also appealed to the government to allow interstate travels as other countries were already opening up their borders.

“I believe most countries, including our neighbours, are looking into the option of opening up their borders.

“Yet, we are still not allowed any interstate travel.

“If there are Covid-19 cases detected in certain areas, they should impose restrictions there, and not a blanket ban, ” he said.

“Economic and tourism activities will do better if restrictions are lifted, ” he added.

“We hope the government can find balance between lives and livelihood. I am worried that if such restrictions continue, some of our members might not be able to withstand the severe economic repercussions, ” he said.

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