THE tourism and hotel industry is again left helpless as various states fall into another round of the movement control order. This time around it came right in the middle of the holy month of Ramadan when hotels are busy preparing for the coming Hari Raya Aidilfitri holidays and serving the once-a-year festival buffet for breaking fast.
Last year, the hotel industry lost a minimum of RM135mil in food and beverage revenues as it was MCO for the entire fasting month.
The industry understands the need for restrictions to be in place but believes that there is room for improvement in balancing lives vs livelihoods.
Hotels were already badly impacted with the extended interstate travel restrictions and now travel has been suspended even between recovery MCO areas.
Since the beginning of Ramadan, hotels had adjusted breaking fast buffets to the new norm, with added standard operating procedures (SOPs) in place to ensure hygiene and safety of guests.
The blanket ban on dine-ins left hotels in a predicament with only days to reorganise what was planned for the entire month.
Hotels are not only left with excess supplies of perishables but also committed manpower for the period.
The government did not offer any support or assistance, leaving hotels high and dry with cancellations pouring in for room bookings planned for the Hari Raya holidays.
With the current situation cutting off all revenue streams, the industry is willing to impose stricter SOPs such as lower capacity limit, served-buffet service or a limit of two per table, limited dining time, increased screening and even mandatory testing for hotel guests checking in from different states.
The government needs to consider these options before imposing blanket bans to allow the industry to at least survive on its own.
We have seen similar situations in other countries and the governments there have provided subsidies to businesses for losses due to the inability to operate.
Looking at the deteriorating situation that will likely be extended, Malaysia needs to plan ahead with a systematic subsidy system for businesses affected by the MCO.
The government must also speed up vaccination plans, especially for economic frontliners such as hoteliers, and find ways to procure more vaccines.
At the current rate, it is highly unlikely that Malaysia will achieve herd immunity any time soon.
With the recent surge in Covid-19 cases, the government would need to consider commencing mass testing and isolating those who test positive to prevent further spread. While the MCO is needed, it does not address or prevent spread from asymptomatic persons that would only multiply with time.
The tourism and hotel industry remains committed to supporting the government to contain the spread of Covid-19.
DATUK N SUBRAMANIAM , President, Malaysian Association of Hotels