Hoteliers, tourism players want a bigger cushion

PETALING JAYA: Tourism and hotel operators fear more employees in these industries will lose their jobs, saying the stimulus package was not sufficient in addressing their dire financial straits.

Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) president Kamaruddin Baharin said the payroll subsidy of RM600 per month for three months, for employees earning below RM4,000 a month, was below what the industry expected.

The hotel industry, he added, had earlier proposed a minimum of RM1,000 per employee, or a minimum equivalent to 50% of employee’s monthly pay for six months.

This is in response to a much lower occupancy rate projected for the coming months.

“We are looking at an average occupancy for Malaysia of nothing more than 25% in June, and that is if the movement control order ends on April 14 with the spread of Covid-19 under control,” said Kamaruddin.

“We will need to work with what is given now, and we will continue to engage and update the government on the situation on the ground.”

According to MAH, 2,041 hotel employees had been laid off due to economic pressures and the extended movement control order, while 9,773 had been given unpaid leave and another 5,054 taken pay cuts.

Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents president Datuk Tan Kok Liang said the package failed to meet the needs of tourism enterprises.

“The stimuli announced by the government do not address the fundamental needs of businesses and will eventually result in companies having to lay off employees to stay in business,” he said.

Tan said the tourism industry, which employs 3.5 million people and contributes 15.2% to the nation’s GDP, saw revenues falling by 90% in March.

“The travel sector is looking at a near-total loss in business for April, May and June.

“Based on the recent announcement, it seems as though businesses are still required to bear the brunt of the economic fallout; handcuffed by inflexible and unyielding labour laws and a lack of any real financial relief,” Tan said.

Malaysia Budget Hotel Association deputy president Dr Sri Ganesh Michiel said the government should introduce a separate stimulus catered to the tourism sector.

“Hoteliers are forced to bear operation costs while paying their employees’ salaries, despite their premises not generating any income.

“This will leave them with no choice but to take steps to shut down their businesses while waiting for the coronavirus situation to recover,” he said.