MATTA chief says new tourism blueprint lacks industry input, post Covid-19 revival plans

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 30 ― The National Tourism Policy (NTP) launched just last month has failed to address many issues faced by industry players in the country who are struggling to survive the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA).

MATTA president Datuk Tan Kok Liang said the government’s 10-year tourism roadmap launched last December 2 president Datuk Tan Kok Liang said the government’s 10-year tourism roadmap launched last December 23 did not address travel challenges under the new norm, nor provide a clear plan for the next three years to reinvigorate the tourism industry that has been crippled by the coronavirus.

“Domestic travel was also not mentioned in the NTP which is crucial for tourism recovery due to the pandemic.

“There was no formal and exhaustive consultation with key industry leaders like Matta in the creation of the NTP,” he said in a press statement last night.

He welcomed the remarks by former tourism director-general Datuk Seri Mirza Mohammad Taiyab in a recent column in Malay Mail to involve industry experts who have survived the pandemic to save the country’s tourism sector.

According to Tan, MATTA as well as the Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) have been excluded from the Tourism Malaysia Board for several years now after their past presidents were “kicked out” for their input prior to the rollout of the tourism tax in 2017.

He added that one of the industry’s lingering concerns had to do with the Tourism Industry Act 1992, which he claimed to be outdated and worked against licensed players.

“Apparently the law allows the government to act on licensed stakeholders whilst unlicensed hotels and operators are allowed to flourish,” he said.

He said this duality had been a problem even before the pandemic hit, and worsened the situation for licensed businesses during the period when travel has been banned.

He said the culture of “government knows best” was persisting.

Tan suggested that to revive the industry, the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry focus on its core function which is regulatory, licensing, enforcement and policy changes and let Tourism Malaysia work independently on promoting and marketing travel destinations.

He offered MATTA’s help, pointing out the association’s strong regional and global network with the European Travel Agents’ and Tour Operators’ Association, World Tourism Alliance, the ASEAN Tourism Association and Federation of Asean Travel Associations.

On January 11, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced that a two-week movement control order (MCO) from January 13 to January 26 would be put in place to help curb the spread of Covid-19 in the country.

The MCO has now been extended to February 4, with interstate and interdistrict travel banned for the whole of Malaysia.

This has made the tourism sector among the worst hit sectors of Malaysia’s economy, with the lockdowns and travel ban hampering tourism completely resulting in hotels shutting down.

The latest victim in this unfortunate situation is the five-star Hotel Equatorial Penang, who announced that they would be closing their doors by March 31 for good due to the adverse business conditions caused by Covid-19.

Its general manager, Alan Ong, said the company has suffered huge losses but will still pay severance benefits to hotel employees and will strive to meet all obligations in accordance with the terms and conditions of employment for all employees.

The hotel, which is about 30 years old, is located 250 feet above sea level at the southwest district of the island near to the industrial zones and the Penang International Airport.