MATTA: Targeted rescue plan needed

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) has urged the government to be proactive and come up with an enhanced and targeted rescue plan for tour and travel agents in light of the latest movement control order and the bleak forecast on travel this year.

MATTA president Datuk Tan Kok Liang (pic) said tourism businesses are currently in extreme distress due to the very fragile and uncertain business environment that was expected to continue late into 2021.

He said tour agents have been battling collapsing revenue and liquidity problems since the start of the pandemic and the government’s efforts have not made significant impact on this segment of the industry.

“It is no longer ‘business as usual’ under the Covid-19 pandemic and MATTA urges the various government agencies to make immediate policy changes to ease the financial burden on the hardest-hit industry in Malaysia.

“While the hotel industry is expecting more hotels to close or wind up due to the second phase of the MCO and continuous closure of borders, more travel agents, especially those owning tourism vehicles, are very likely to face the same fate as hoteliers.

“Tourism businesses are expected to suffer more losses and the government must provide an extension on the loan repayment moratorium and enhanced wage subsidy programmes until June 30,2021.

“Relief on rental, insurance and statutory licensing fees is also needed to help those who are affected, especially small and medium enterprises which have already had to burn a lot of cash just to survive the last MCO, ” he said in a statement yesterday.

Tan added that tourism played an important part in the national gross domestic product (GDP) and was the third largest contributor in previous years.

“The industry contributed 14.1% (RM166bil) to the GDP in 2015,14.5% (RM182bil) in 2016,14.6% (RM201bil) in 2017,15.2% (RM220bil) in 2018 and 15.9% (RM240bil) in 2019.

“For 2020, the pandemic vastly affected the tourism industry with an estimated total loss exceeding RM100bil, ” he said.

Tan also urged travel businesses to go for consolidation and mergers, saying that over 5,000 travel companies are now in dire straits and the government needs to initiate rehabilitation programmes as the situation is set to get worse.

e said employees of travel agencies should also go for reskilling during this challenging time and expressed disappointment that the government did not allocate funds for reskilling tourism workers at large, apart from the 8,000 aviation workers as announced in Budget 2021.

He said it is also imperative for the government to resolve issues over deposits held by airlines and service providers, make urgent corrections to the outdated Tourism Industry Act 1992 and provide flexibility of approval for conversion of tour buses into other categories to allow these buses to be utilised for other purposes. — Bernama