KUALA LUMPUR: It is too early to determine if domestic tourism is seeing positive signs after the sector reopened on June 10.
The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) president Datuk Tan Kok Liang said the response from traditional markets like Penang, Langkawi, and Melaka has been very encouraging.
"It is still too early to confirm as the situation is just beginning to normalise and accepting the new norms as part of our lifestyle, including travelling.
"This is also against a backdrop of economic recession and consumer confidence," he said today.
Tan said nonetheless it was crucial to restoring trust in domestic tourism and tourism products in the post-pandemic period.
"Tourism operators must put in place the health and safety protocols across tourism products in line with the requirements by the authorities such as the Health Ministry.
"(And) they must also communicate with travellers, by telling them that it is safe to travel locally," he said.
It was reported that 221.3 million domestic visitors were recorded in 2018, amounting to 302.4 million trips with RM92.561 million spent throughout the year.
Asked on what can be done to further boost the peoples' confidence to travel and subsequently promote domestic tourism post-Covid-19, Tan said amongst the key steps include affordable airfares and flexibility in bookings and reservations.
"Others include attractive tour packages incorporating the new norm like the preference for privacy and nature-based tourism products."
Tan said state tourism should also play a proactive role in promoting their respective states.
Citing Penang as an example, Tan said the state already kicked-off their campaign by indicating measures taken to make travel to Penang as being safe.
Previously, the Tourism, Arts, and Culture Ministry said it will be pursuing a tourism and cultural recovery plan to re-ignite the domestic tourism industry which was adversely affected by the Movement Control Order (MCO) and Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) for close to three months.
Its minister Datuk Sri Nancy Shukri said although Visit Malaysia Year 2020 (VM2020) was cancelled, she stressed that efforts to promote the country as a safe tourism destination would continue.
Under the Economic Recovery Plan (Penjana), the government has allocated RM1 billion for the Tourism Financing facility to finance transformation initiatives for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the tourism sector to remain viable and competitive in the new normal.
To boost domestic tourism, personal income tax relief of RM1,000 will be given for domestic tourism expenses until Dec 31 next year, along with an exemption on the tourism tax from July 1 to June 30 next year, while the exemption on the service tax for hotels will be extended to June 30 next year.