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 (MCO) and the bleak forecast for the tourism industry this year.
MATTA president Tan Kok Liang said tourism-related businesses were currently in extreme distress due to the very fragile and uncertain economic environments, which was expected to continue late into 2021.
“Tour and travel agents have been battling with collapsing revenue and liquidity problems since the start of the pandemic. The government’s efforts have not had any significant impact on this segment of the industry,” he said in a statement today.
Tan said tour and travel agents were essential to Malaysia’s economy as the majority of these businesses contributed significantly to inbound traffic in Malaysia in the form of both leisure and business travellers.
He said many agencies also provided crucial transport services and maintained fleets of buses and other tourist vehicles vital to the tourism infrastructure of the country.
“Tourism has played an important part in contributing to the national gross domestic product (GDP). It was the third-largest contributor in previous years,” Tan said.
The industry contributed 14.1% (RM166 billion) to the GDP in 2015, 14.5% (RM182 billion) in 2016, 14.6% (RM201 billion) in 2017, 15.2% (RM220 billion) in 2018 and 15.9% (RM240 billion) in 2019.
“For 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic had vastly affected the tourism industry, with an estimated total loss exceeding RM100 billion.”
Tan added that the hotel industry was expecting more operators to wind up due to the second phase of MCO and continuous closure of borders. More travel agents, especially those owning tourism vehicles, were very likely to face the same fate as these hoteliers.
“Tourism businesses are expected to suffer more losses and the government must provide an extension of the loan moratorium and enhanced wage subsidy programme until June 30, 2021.
“Relief on rental, insurance and statutory licensing fees are also needed to help those who are affected, especially the small and medium enterprises, who have already had to burn a lot of cash just to survive the last MCO,” he said.
MATTA also urged travel businesses to go for consolidation and mergers. According to Tan, more than 5,000 travel companies are now in dire condition and the government needs to initiate rehabilitation programmes as the situation will get worse.
He said allowing travel agents to close business premises and operate from home and the cancellation of the mandatory Travel & Tours Enhancement Course (TTEC) programmes for travel companies were good gestures of support.
MATTA has urged employees of travel agencies to go for re-skilling during this challenging time.
However, the association expressed disappointment that the government did not allocate funds for re-skilling tourism workers. It said 8,000 aviation workers would be undergoing re-skilling, as announced in the 2021 budget.
“It is also imperative for the government to resolve the issue on deposits held by airlines and related 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.
“These are practical measures that the government needs to support,” he said.
Tan said it was no longer “business as usual” under the Covid-19 pandemic and MATTA urged the various government agencies to make immediate policy changes to ease the financial burden of the hardest-hit industry in Malaysia.