Tour operators: Battered, bruised and ready to throw in the towel with second CMCO

File picture showing tourists at Ipoh’s Concubine Lane. Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agent president Datuk Tan Kok Liang said that implementation of the second CMCO is demoralising as domestic tourism was just starting to pick up.  — Picture by Farhan Najib
File picture showing tourists at Ipoh’s Concubine Lane. Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agent president Datuk Tan Kok Liang said that implementation of the second CMCO is demoralising as domestic tourism was just starting to pick up. — Picture by Farhan Najib

IPOH, Nov 11 — Mohamad Hisam Mohamad Yusof who runs a travel and tourism business from here has a gloomy outlook for the industry after months of movement restrictions to curb Covid-19.

The CEO of Aidil Travels and Tour Sdn Bhd said his most optimistic prediction for travel agents to bounce back from the current conditional movement control order (CMCO) is July next year, if they manage to survive 2020.

“Our tourism industry is in a coma state due to this,” he told Malay Mail when contacted.

“For those companies that have enough reserve money, maybe they can wake up after this, but for those companies with no reserves, they will immediately close down the business and the employees will suffer,” Mohamad Hisam elaborated.

He claimed the travel industry has had “zero” business ever since the country was put under the movement control order (MCO) back in March, adding that proprietors were forced to cut their operations expenditure by 70-80 per cent.

He said travel agents were hopeful when the government lifted the movement restrictions with the first CMCO in May, but were dashed by the return to a partial lockdown in all but four states nationwide — Perlis, Pahang, Kelantan and Sarawak — since last Monday that is scheduled to last four weeks.

“I don’t think travel agents can survive now. The earliest will be after June 2021,” Mohamad Hisam said.

He is not alone.

Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agent president Datuk Tan Kok Liang said that implementation of the second CMCO is demoralising as domestic tourism was just starting to pick up.

“With restrictions on inter-district travel, the demand for leisure travel is practically destroyed.

“Now with the current situation where the tourism industry is not getting enough aid from Budget 2021, there is no hope for tourism,” he said.

Tan expressed frustration at what he sees as a lack of will and commitment on the government’s part in moving towards reopening Malaysia’s borders again.

He said the confidence level of business owners are at rock bottom and many were seriously contemplating quitting at this juncture.

“It makes no sense for certain states not under red zones to be punished with other states with higher infection rates,” he said. 

“The government is not supporting the industry based on Budget 2021 and leaving us to bleed by continuous restrictions,” he added. 

Tan said the second CMCO is unnecessary, adding that there are alternatives to the sweeping order.

“What the government needs to do is to enforce strict and detailed standard operating procedures and ensure that the public follows through. Covid-19 will be in the air for some time and we will have to live through new norms,” he said.

Association of Tourist Attractions Penang president Ch’ng Huck Theng said some of its members have announced their closure for the second CMCO until further notice.

He hopes that the government will not sideline the tourism industry and relook into the Budget and allocate more funds to make sure this industry is not compromised and will be ready when borders are opened. 

Ch’ng said that the government should consider increasing the wage subsidy programme to help preserve jobs and allow small-medium entrepreneurs that dominate the tourism sector to survive the economic crisis. 

He said the government should extend the loan moratorium programme until mid-2021 to put money in people’s pockets and encourage them to spend domestically. 

He also said the government should allow some limited form of international travel to resume such as to Singapore, China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, which will help the tourism industry directly.

“Our neighbours are already moving in this direction and taking tentative steps to reopen their borders, so we should work hard to be able to do this as well sooner rather than later with all the necessary safeguards in place. 

“The government should also allow the resumption of medical tourism and restart the Malaysia My Second Home Programme and welcome those with the means to contribute to the economy of the country in the form of long stay visas,” he said. 

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