KOTA KINABALU, Feb 13 — The Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry is maintaining its aim of 30 million arrivals for Visit Malaysia Year 2020 notwithstanding the effects of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) on the sector.
Minister Datuk Mohamaddin Ketapi said it was premature to alter the target now as the full severity of the outbreak has yet to be determined.
“We are not going to adjust the target. It is too early. We will leave it as it is. Even if we fail to hit it, people will know why. It’s a global problem that does not involve us only. So it is not proper to adjust now,” he said.
“For example, if we adjust the target to 20 million and the problem is prolonged, should we, you think, adjust to 15 million or 10 million? And once the problem is settled, then we go up to 15 million again?
“Keeping on adjusting the target is not proper. Let it be. If we fail, people will know why. If it is for no reason and yet we fail, it will be a total failure, means we cannot do it,” he said when speaking to local and international media during the Pacific Asia Travel Association (Pata) Adventure and Travel Conference here today.
Yesterday, Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry secretary-general Noor Zari Hamat said the government’s target for Visit Malaysia Year 2020 could be affected by the Covid-19 outbreak.
Ketapi said some hotels reported up to 30 per cent lower bookings.
Mohamaddin reiterated Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng’s statement that the government would introduce a stimulus package like it did when the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak hit in 2003.
“We have had a series of meetings with the industry players and we have been listening to their problems. We are still collecting information and we have met with the finance minister. We will come in to assist industry players via stimulus packages.
“Assistance to help them will be coming soon. I don’t know how soon, but it will be soon,” said Ketapi.
Meanwhile, Pata chief executive officer Mario Hardy said that the tourism industry faced a similar problem during SARS and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).
However, he said they were now dealing with the added challenges of social media and the fact that Covid-19 was hitting hardest in China, which was Malaysia’s largest source of tourists.
He went on to say the tourism industry was resilient and will recover.
“You’ll get back your 30 million and probably more but the question is how long,” he said, adding the question of adjusting arrival targets is also a dilemma in other asian countries besides Malaysia.
On average, he said the industry needs about six months for recovery, to reach the same growth level it had before.
“The tipping point everyone is waiting for, is when the number of cases start to drop, and then we have a better idea how we will recover.
“However the very interesting thing when you look back at these statistics is that not only are we recovering after such events but we grow even faster and bigger.”