Tourism industry players must be ready to adapt to post-Covid travel trends, says LADA chief

In 2019, Langkawi Island reported tourist arrivals totalling 3.92 million. — Picture by KE Ooi
In 2019, Langkawi Island reported tourist arrivals totalling 3.92 million. — Picture by KE Ooi

KUALA LUMPUR, May 10 — Post Covid-19, there will be some realities players in the tourism industry of Langkawi Island will have to be prepared for, said the chief executive officer of Langkawi Development Authority (LADA), Hezri Adnan.

For instance, the tourist crowd in Langkawi will not be as big as it used to be pre-Covid-19 time as there will be lingering fears of the virus, and social distancing will continue for a while and like some reports have indicated, this could very well be the beginning of the end of mass travels to tourist destinations, he said in a recent Zoom interview with Bernama from Langkawi.

In 2019, Langkawi Island, which is among Malaysia’s premier tourist destinations, reported tourist arrivals totalling 3.92 million.

“Close to 70 per cent of the islanders depend on tourism for their income covering the sectors of accommodation, transportation, retail, food and beverage, and other support services.

The earnings in this area amount to RM1.7 billion a year, trickling to the bulk of 4,900 businesses in the island that include 9,000 hotel staff, 150 travel and tour agents, as well as 200 tourist guides from the tour sector. The island has a population of 110,000,” said Hezri.

During the movement control order (MCO), all these activities except the essential services ceased in the island.

From 24 flights daily into the island, it came down to five flights a week while the number of daily arrivals from two ferries was reduced to 400.

“We are in a predicament,” he said.

“While there is doubt we will return to the heyday of mass travels, we certainly hope that things will bounce back.”

Certainly, travel trends will be changed for now, and according to travel analysts, international travel will take a lot more time to recover, he added.

But not all is bleak, as the Langkawi Island is in the green zone. It had only four cases of the coronavirus in the second wave and one case in the first wave but all have recovered since. This will make it easier for promoting the island, which is already renowned for its clean beaches and natural attractions.

Nonetheless, when the island goes into full operations, industry players will have to ensure the new norms which include keeping the social distancing requirement, while adapting to the new situation of reduced tourist arrivals. From airports to theme parks, the management of tourist crowd will have to be there.

They will also have to reinvent their marketing strategies and come up with ways to put back the island on the tourist hot spot, Hezri said.

In Thailand for example, the market that will be targeted is no longer the older pensioners but the 20-45 years age group.

In Langkawi, already the hotels and other players in the hospitality industry have come up with various packages aimed at attracting domestic tourists, starting with frontliners and civil servants, while looking at ways on how to retain international interest in the island.

Promoting cultural tourism could be a new approach. Visits can be centred on the legends and history of the island. With a slower pace of things, tourists may also get to slow down and enjoy the nature offerings of the island.

On the part of LADA, which provided food and financial assistance to frontliners during the MCO, Hezri said it will also be holding consultative meetings with tourism players in the island and giving its support in the mapping of plans to come out of the current situation positively.

“There is a consultative team that focuses on solution. No moaning and groaning here. Just solutions on how to work together and pull through,” he said.

It has also been in discussions with the Ministry of Health on how soon it could launch its Visit Langkawi campaign, which will among others, look at giving the assurance of a clean bill for Langkawi’s hotels and premises.

He said the government had also done its best to flatten the curve on the Covid-19 spread and this will help in faster recovery for affected sectors in the country.

There are 212 registered hotels in Langkawi but based on Agoda’s statistics, the total service providers in this area should come to around 1,057 if homestays and other forms of accommodation are included.

Among the worst hit industries worldwide, tourism players from the hotel sector to airlines have suffered tremendous losses in the Covid-19 pandemic. Many workers in the hospitality industry have had pay cuts, gone on unpaid leave, and some have lost their jobs.

While governments have allocated the highest of assistance to these sectors, much more will be needed to pull them out of their predicament and set them back at least on their feet, if not to the kind of growth seen before Covid-19. — Bernama

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