WHILE the reopening of interstate and inter-district travel in most areas nationwide has provided cause for optimism among tourism players, hotel operators, however, are still cautious about the near-term outlook. Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) chief executive officer Yap Lip Seng expects a slight pick-up in travellers.MAH chief executive officer Yap Lip Seng said its not hoteliers' intention to ban home-sharing entirely. “While we are expecting to see an increase in travel, it will unlikely to be as good as during the recovery movement control order in June, ” he tells StarBizWeek. Yap notes that the current situation is not as favourable as it was back in June, considering the high number of new Covid-19 cases being reported. “Nevertheless, it is a long-awaited decision where locals are expected to reinstate their cancelled plans to travel for year-end holidays. “It will likely be focused on popular destinations like Penang, Langkawi, Ipoh and Genting. Kuala Lumpur with its extended conditional movement control order (CMCO) is expected to remain low, ” says Yap. Malaysia Budget Hotel Association (MyBHA) national deputy president Sri Ganesh Michiel is also less-than-optimistic about the near-term outlook for budget hotel operators in the country. “While we are thankful to the government for allowing interstate and inter-district travel once more, people are still afraid to go places. “For now, we don’t expect to see a significant increase in bookings and we need to build the confidence of the travellers.” Ganesh also does not see a significant pick-up in occupancy rates at hotels in states with low infection rates.“It’s because people are worried that things could change overnight.Malaysia Budget Hotel Associationnational deputy president Sri Ganesh Michiel. “What if you book a stay at a hotel in another state and tomorrow the government imposes a CMCO or emergency movement control order (EMCO)?” Interstate and inter-district travel bans were rescinded with effect from Dec 7, regardless of whether an area is still under the CMCO. Senior Minister (Defence) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said the decision was made due to the need to balance public health and economic stability. Interstate and inter-district travel across the country however will not be allowed for areas under an EMCO. According to Sabri, the focus will now be on adherence to the standard operating procedure (SOP). Ganesh points out that having the need to adhere to strict SOPs can also be a deterrent to potential travellers. “Apart from Covid-19, people are also afraid to travel to other states because they are not sure of the SOPs there, ” he says. Recently, a recovery plan to revive the pandemic-hit tourism industry in Malaysia was revealed by the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry. Minister Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri says the plan would involve restoring confidence in travel, reviving domestic tourism and maximising current resources. The programme will focus on collaborations and partnerships with airline companies, tourism-related agencies and companies as well as collaborations with non-governmental organisations such as Malaysian Association of Hotels and MyBHA. The suggested mechanism for the recovery programme is through vouchers, discounts and cash rebates that will bring direct impact to domestic travellers. The ministry’s initiative came following the announcement of a “green travel bubble” to boost domestic tourism by Sabri recently. Under the travel bubble programme, people from green zones can travel to other zones marked as green. Meanwhile, Tourism Malaysia revealed earlier this week that Malaysia recorded 4,299,419 tourists from January until September 2020. This was a decrease of 78.6% compared with the same period last year, where Malaysia recorded over 20.1 million tourist arrivals. “For the same period, Malaysia received a total of RM12.6bil, a decrease of 80.9% compared with RM66.1bil received last year. “Similarly, the per capita expenditure showed a decline of 10.7% from RM3,289.30 in 2019 to RM2,938.40 this year, ” says Tourism Malaysia. The Top 10 tourist generating markets continue to be dominated by Singapore (1,543,627), Indonesia (710,118), China (403,055), Thailand (372,075), India (155,448), Brunei (135,848), South Korea (119,364), Japan (73,891), Australia (72,369) and the Philippines (65,601).
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