Photo for illustrative purposes only. Tourists riding traditional rickshaws and bicycles in George Town on Nov 12, 2017.

Islamic Lifestyle

Malaysia travel agents body says ‘extreme measures’ needed to save industry as government starts work on 10-year plan

The government needs to be proactive and come up with an enhanced and targeted rescue plan to save the tourism industry, said the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents on Thursday (Jan 14).

MATTA’s call for “extreme measures” comes at the start of another COVID-19 lockdown in Malaysia that is planned for two weeks starting Jan 13 as cases continue to surge.

“Tourism businesses are currently in extreme distress due to the very fragile and uncertain business environment which is expected to continue late into 2021,” said MATTA president Tan Kok Liang.

“Tour and travel agents have been battling with collapsing revenue and liquidity problems since the start of the pandemic and the government’s efforts have not made any significant impact on this segment of the industry.”

MATTA’s suggestions for Malaysia government to take urgent steps to save industry:

  • Resolve issues on deposits held by airlines and related service providers
  • Make urgent corrections to the Tourism Industry Act 1992
  • Provide flexibility of approval for conversion of tour buses into other categories
  • Extend loan moratoriums and enhanced wage subsidy programmes until the end of June this year
  • Give reliefs on rental, insurance and statutory licensing fees

State of Malaysia’s tourism and travel industry, according to MATTA:

  • Over 5,000 travel companies in critical condition
  • More hotels expected to close
  • Travel agents, especially those owning tourism vehicles likely to close

Malaysia initially targeted 30 million arrivals for 2020, up from 28 million in 2019. Due to the closure of international borders as a result of the pandemic, arrivals from January to September reached only 4,299,419, according to most recent data from government body Tourism Malaysia. This is a 78.6% plunge from the same period in 2019.

The tourism industry earned 12.6 billion ringgit during Jan-Sep last year, down 80.9% compared to 66.1 billion ringgit for the same period in 2019.

For the whole of last year, the tourism industry lost more than 100 billion ringgit ($24.6 billion), according to the prime minister on Dec 23 when he released the country's Tourism Policy 2020-2030.


MATTA’s statement comes three weeks after Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin released the National Tourism Policy 2020-2030, that says “existing tourism products are becoming “tired” and unattractive due to the lack of creativity and innovation, resulting from the over-dependence on the government and a silo mentality.”

The new tourism policy is heavy on digitalisation to drive innovation and competitiveness, and stresses public-private partnerships to reduce the role of government in managing tourism attractions.

At the same time, it doesn’t absolve public sector agencies, and factors in the need to strengthen governance for the more than 40 government agencies and local authorities that are directly or indirectly involved in tourism development.

The policy says that Malaysia will consolidate its position as the “world’s top destination for Muslim-friendly travel” by deepening the spiritual experience through “specialised interpretation and exceptional Muslim hospitality”.

The 10-year plan also aims to improve on the country's ecotourism, use tourism as a catalyst for rural empowerment, and develop a data reporting mechanism for sustainable tourism aligned with the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

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