‘To know Malaysia is to love Malaysia’

  • The Star Says
  • Sunday, 16 Feb 2020

THE country’s tourism industry contributes significantly to Malaysia’s economic growth – and with the Visit Malaysia Year 2020 (VMY2020), the government is targeting around 30 million tourist arrivals and RM100bil tourist receipts this year.

Unfortunately, this plan is being hit by the Covid-19 (novel coronavirus) outbreak as tourists rethink their holiday plans due to the health scare.

Many Chinese tourists specifically are cancelling or delaying their travel plans, as China’s authorities impose travel restrictions on their citizens.

Travellers from China consistently make the top 10 list of international tourist arrivals to Malaysia – the Chinese tourist market accounts for 11% of Malaysia’s total tourist market share.

Since China first barred its citizens from travelling on Jan 26, followed by the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee of the World Health Organisation’s declaration that the outbreak was a “public health emergency of international concern”, the Chinese have effectively cancelled their holiday plans abroad.

Malaysia was not spared. Nearly 5,000 Chinese tour groups have cancelled their trips here, causing losses of a projected RM440mil in tourist revenue in the first three months.

More than 95,000 bookings for local hotels have also been cancelled. According to the Malaysian Association of Hotels, the cancellation translates into some RM40mil of losses.

Swift action was taken to address the situation while various precautionary measures were set to ensure strict public health safety, not only for our people, but tourists as well.

We can also do our part in these challenging times by supporting our domestic tourism.

This will go a long way not only for the country’s economy, but the livelihood of many of our fellow Malaysians – the industry employs more than 3.5 million people (23.5% of the nation’s total employment).

In this respect, the government and industry players should seize this opportunity to promote an initiative like the Cuti-Cuti Malaysia campaign – which was introduced in 2006 – to boost the local tourism sector.

For a start, it would be great to see attractive holiday packages, deals and other good rates to lure Malaysians to travel domestically.

It is a known fact that Malaysians love to travel. Malaysians travel to far-flung places.

While many will share and describe their visits – often with colourful descriptions of the foreign places they had been to – it’s regrettable that the same individuals are unable to say the same about sites, equally magical, in their own country. Because they have never been there.

So, this is a great opportunity for the government and tourism players to give a hard-to-resist incentive for these Malaysians to hit the road to learn about their own country.

For example, the local highway concessionaires who operate the network of highways connecting major towns and cities around the country could roll out special toll rebate cards, despite already lowering their toll charges from Feb 1, for locals to see beautiful Malaysia.

Perhaps the government can also get the local transport players connecting the towns and cities across the nation to come up with attractive packages for those who want to get to know the country better.

The government can also announce tax relief to individuals and companies who offer or encourage their staff to travel to boost the broken economy left by the rooms and tour cancellations.

The Health Ministry must also issue special guidelines, rules and regulations for this initiative to take off without compromising or jeopardising the public health safety.

We have everything to gain from this.

To Know Malaysia is to Love Malaysia, the song used by Tourism Malaysia to promote our very first Visit Malaysia Year in 1990, is very true indeed.

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