Malaysia may be ready for international travellers, but arrivals remain low, say tourism stakeholders

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KUALA LUMPUR, May 22 – Despite Malaysia’s international borders reopening on April 1, the tourism sector here is still struggling to get back on its feet as foreign tourist arrivals remain low.

Tourism stakeholders interviewed by Malay Mail recently said the industry currently depends on domestic visitors.

They said it would take at least a year for the industry to rebound, as recovery also depends on other countries reopening their international borders to pre-Covid-19 levels.

Normality in 2023

Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) chairman Datuk Tan Kok Liang said recovery travel is just beginning, after the government eased Covid-19 testing requirements on 1 may.

“The tourism industry is heavily dependent on international arrivals due to a weak domestic consumer base, unlike countries like China, India, Indonesia or the Philippines which have large populations.

“The growth in international arrivals is not significant due to the uncertainty of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, the rising cost of travel and the proximity to major source markets such as China,” he said. . malaysian mail.

Tan said that until the end of the second quarter of this year, the tourism industry is still mainly a domestic market, as Malaysians find it easier at present to travel within the country.

“The ‘visiting friends and relatives’ travel segment and business travel are recovering, but the leisure segment appears to be slow.

“Hopefully it picks up in the third and fourth quarters of the year,” he said.

Tan also pointed out that the leisure travel market generally has a longer planning time associated with post-Covid travel conditions, as travelers need time to adjust to the transition.

“Normality will hopefully return by 2023,” he said.

However, Tan noted that international travel inquiries and bookings have increased.

“This is based on the recently concluded Matta Fair in April 2022. To meet pent-up demand for international travel, multiple Matta State Fairs will be held in June, July and August,” he added.

Regarding the outlook for the rest of 2022, Tan said the tourism industry is likely to welcome 10 million international tourists from traditional source markets in ASEAN countries, India, the UK, India, and the United Kingdom. Australia, Japan, South Korea, the Middle East and Europe.

“Intra-ASEAN travel is our best bet, but ASEAN governments must encourage travel by providing the same standard of travel health protocols across the region for a seamless travel experience,” he said. declared.

Resumption of hotel reservations

Meanwhile, the executive director of the Malaysian Association of Hotel Owners (Maho), Shaharuddin M. Saaid, said some 500,000 foreign tourists had arrived since the borders reopened.

“Tourism receipts are growing, but still well, well below pre-pandemic levels. Hotels are experiencing an increase in occupancy.

“In some high-demand destinations, hotel occupancy rates have reached 70-80%, especially during peak periods such as Hari Raya Aidilfitri and long holiday weekends. However, the occupancy rate was only around 30-40% before that,” he said.

Shaharuddin also said some countries’ restrictions on outbound travel were among the factors contributing to the drop in foreign tourist arrivals.

Furthermore, he pointed out that the lack of accessibility or unavailability of flights from these countries to Malaysia was also a contributing factor.

Simpler SOPs

Malaysian Hotel Association Chairman N. Subramaniam also said it would take at least a year for the hospitality industry to recover or record bookings similar to the pre-pandemic days. “It can take about a year to recover and we’ll have to wait, if we want to see occupancy rates go up to 60-80%,” he said.

Subramaniam also said that hotels were almost fully booked recently due to the Aidilfitri holiday season and also the government’s decision to relax standard operating procedures (SOPs).

“We cannot predict what the increase in occupation will be in the coming months, as we will only know after the Hari Raya period.

“During the recent holiday season, most hotels in the East Coast, Melaka, Penang and other states were nearly full.

“However, in the Klang Valley, the hotels were not as full as most ‘balik kampung’ people are,” he added.

Subramaniam also pointed out that the hotel industry in Malaysia depends on foreign tourists and they are not yet arriving in droves.

“Most of the time we can see tourists from Singapore, Thailand and a small number of tourists from other countries.

“Government SOPs should be simplified so that international tourists can understand and comply with them.

“With clear SOPs and instructions, relevant authorities, in the performance of their duties, will provide smooth and efficient service to all concerned,” he said.

Separately, Subramaniam also said that the service industry is suffering from a labor shortage.

“Many have moved on to other industries over the past couple of years. Additionally, raising the minimum wage to RM1,500 has also made the situation worse.

“We understand that many hotels have requested foreign workers, but they have not yet received approval from the authorities.”

He said the MAH also planned to send another memorandum to the government to consider extending the wage subsidy program for another six months, as the hospitality industry has been the most affected since the start of the pandemic.

“The government can also support the hospitality industry by holding their functions and seminars in hotels,” he said.

Subramaniam added that MAH has around 1,000 members and 150 hotels have been forced to close due to the pandemic.

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