Ministry has strategies for tourism recovery

PUTRAJAYA: THE Covid-19 pandemic has badly affected the country’s tourism sector, with only 4.2 million international tourist arrivals and RM12.6 billion in tourism receipts so far this year.

In the first half of the year, Malaysia’s tourism industry suffered losses of about RM45 billion in tourist expenditure due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In an interview with the New Straits Times recently, Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri said the two figures, the lowest in four years, was a drop of 68.2 and 69.8 per cent, respectively, compared with the same period last year.

“The ministry’s mission is to establish Malaysia as a world-class tourist and cultural destination, while simultaneously building a national identity based on arts, culture and heritage.

“However, since many countries impose restrictions on international travel, emphasis is being put on domestic tourism to help offset the downturn in the economy due to the absence of foreign contributions at the moment.

“Most economic activities, including domestic travel, has been allowed and tourism-related businesses have resumed operations while adhering to the new normal, with strict hygiene practices and standard operating procedures.”

Nancy said hotels, as well as popular resorts and beach destinations, particularly in the east coast states of Pahang and Terengganu, as well Langkawi, had high occupancy rates after the recovery phase of the Movement Control Order was announced.

“The ministry has strategies and plans on how to recover. Although the World Tourism Organisation has indicated that it will take four years to fully recover, we do not want to wait that long.

“We have our target, which is the second quarter of next year.”

TRANSFORMATION AGENDA

She said the ministry had come up with a transformation agenda that would focus on increasing revenue, securing partnerships and investments, empowering local communities and ensuring the sustainability and resilience of the industry.

“Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on the cultural industry, which has led to programmes being cancelled, borders being closed to tourist until December and many countries imposing a ban or restrictions on international travel.

“Thus, the ministry is emphasising domestic tourism more to help offset the economic downturn due to the absence of foreign contributions,” she said, adding that this would be the ministry’s focus until next year.

Nancy said with positive growth in domestic tourism in the start of the second half of this year, Malaysia was expected to see gradual growth, at least 24 per cent, in hotel occupancy and related sectors by December.

“Last year, domestic tourism expenditure totalled RM103.2 billion, which was a growth of 11.5 per cent from the previous year.

“This shows that the domestic segment plays an important role as the key driver of the tourism sector and in generating income for the economy.”

GOVERNMENT INCENTIVES

Nancy said government incentives played important roles in boosting the domestic tourism sectors.

“We are lucky that the government has provided incentives and assistance through economic stimulus packages such as Prihatin, Prihatin SMEs and the National Economic Recovery Plan (Penjana) that can be utilised by tourism and culture industry players.

“This assistance is not only to ensure the continuation or survivability of existing activities, but can also be used to improve products and services in the industry.”

Nancy said domestic tourism could likely make a quicker recovery, by 2022, supported by the ministry’s recovery initiatives and government assistance.

These aid include the tourism tax exemption until June next year; service tax exemption extension for hotels until June next year; the Penjana Tourism Financing scheme; and, the Domestic Tourism Vibes online course.

What will also help is the use of technology and innovation in the marketing and promotion of tourism, arts, culture and heritage services via digital platforms such as the Cuti-cuti Malaysia Campaign.

She said the government also provided robust economic incentives under Penjana, where the government allocated RM1 billion for the Penjana Tourism Financing scheme to fund transformation initiatives by small- and medium-sized enterprises.

Nancy, who is Batang Sadong member of parliament, said under Penjana, budget hotels, registered homestays, chalets, resorts, travel agencies and tour operators, the MICE (meetings, incentives, conventions, exhibitions) ecosystem, transportation providers for tourists, tourism-related retail businesses and the recreation and wellness sector had benefited from the RM1 billion allocated for them to remain viable and competitive.

Under Prihatin, special individual tax relief of up to RM1,000 for domestic tourism expenditure was given to encourage domestic tourism.

“Tour guides licensed by the ministry have also received one-off assistance of RM600, with more than 7,000 tour guides benefiting, with total amount exceeding RM4 million.

“Additionally, programmes like the Meet in Malaysia campaign, which runs until December next year, has been launched to help MICE industry players. A fee waiver for the renewal licences was given to 531 travel agencies until the year end, and this is a contributing factor to the industry’s growth.

“We cannot deny that this, to some extent, has also helped restore the nation’s economy.”

Nancy said to encourage domestic tourism, the ministry launched Siri Jelajah Semarakkan Pelancongan Domestik in eight states, and Malaysians were responding well to the call.

OUTLOOK FOR TRADE AND BUSINESS EVENTS

She said the outlook for trade and business events in Malaysia was relatively positive as a report from the Malaysia Convention and Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB) showed that only 70 events had been postponed, while only 20 events had been cancelled.

“Trade and business events are an industry that is highly dependent on international arrivals.

“However, we must be cautious in opening our international borders amid the fight to curb the spread of Covid-19. Look at the bright side… We still have these events, but at a later date and time once it’s safer for people to travel internationally travels or when the pandemic is over.”

Nancy said previously, MyCEB had secured and supported 3,863 business events from 2010 to last year, generating RM26.9 billion in economic impact and welcomed almost 2.1 million business delegates to the country.

“With so many recovery initiatives in place, it is expected of Malaysians to travel. The country’s economy is improving and the tourism industry is starting to record positive developments in related sectors since June.”

In an optimistic sign, the Malaysian Hotel Association recently reported that the average occupancy rate for October, November and December this year was expected to increase rapidly by 21.3, 22.8, and 24.9 per cent, respectively.

Source: NST