LAST month, a letter appeared in a daily about allowing the Covid-19 pandemic to “purge” the tourism industry of “zombies”. It questioned the government for promoting and facilitating tourism with incentives, overseas advertising campaigns and direct input of public money.
The writer blamed the ills of tourism on “zombies” in the same manner preachers expediently put the blame on the devil for sins committed by their congregation. But I am not into this imaginary blame game, more so when tourism is not a single industry but a wide range of activities that sprawl across many businesses and overlap industries with different sectors and players, each with its own idiosyncrasies.
According to the latest “Tourism Satellite Account” released annually in September by the Department of Statistics, inbound and domestic tourism expenditures totalled RM170.4bil in 2018, and 3.5 million persons, or 23.5% of the country’s workforce, are employed in tourism.
Those who cannot see the big picture tend to paint with a broad brush. It is akin to touting capitalism earlier but denouncing it now because many people throughout the world are suffering amid the pandemic due to systematic failures.
Like many matters, tourism is a double-edged sword that can cut both ways, just as a coin has two sides. Much like automobiles that are meant to serve as transport and weapons for defence but that have killed millions in times of war and peace. Authorities that could not care less have often chosen banning outright for expediency instead of controlling, which requires a lot of hard work.
Weaker tourism industry players are being decimated by the pandemic but those capable of rising from the ashes deserve help. Other-wise, more than a million local tourism industry workers will be out of jobs with nowhere to go and unable to fend for themselves. On the other hand, with help, the amount of money earned can be increased dramatically by tourism and result in a speedier recovery of our economy.
Should an effective and affordable vaccine or treatment be found for Covid-19, tourism could recover faster than any other industry, bringing along with it a much-needed robustness for our financial system, and the ability to get people back to work and putting food on the table.
CY MING , Ampang, Selangor
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