KOTA KINABALU: The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) is calling for Government initiatives to resuscitate the tourism industry by developing and implementing health accreditation that can guarantee
health and safety standards to boost confidence on tourism facilities for both locals and tourists.
MATTA president Datuk Tan Kok Liang in his statement at the Online Forum organised by MATTA in collaboration with The Star Media Group said that the tourism industry needs to deal with the core issue of health and safety confidence in travel as the new priority.
No amount of digitalisation, promotions, incentives or freebies can directly help to create demand except to boost the much-needed confidence that it is safe to travel through coordinated efforts with the relevant authorities, he opined.
He added that the global private sector had aligned around the health and safety protocols to create consistency across the industry.
"Today, we see malls and food and beverage outlets running under low capacity due to the 'Stay At Home' tagline and the fear of being infected with Covid-19.
"The authorities should replace the 'Stay at Home' tagline with a new one such as 'Stay Safe' to portray a more positive message. The future of travel and market recovery in the next 12 months will be challenging and unpredictable due to the global recession along with travel restrictions resulting in the industry coming into a standstill.
"Bolstering the confidence to travel among consumers is the key to recovery in tourism. The industry has grown very sensitive towards health and safety protocols due to the pandemic and attaining people's trust will be a challenging task," he stressed.
Nonetheless, the desire to travel will not go away and many are hoping that they will be able to travel again within several months after restrictions are lifted said Tan adding that issues such as privacy and cleanliness will become paramount as part of the new norm, keeping in mind the push-pull of people wanting to see the world while also wanting to stay safe.
The Ministry of Tourism. Arts and Culture and the Ministry of Health may consider initiating a health accreditation mark programme for the tourism value chain which includes aviation, hotels, tourism attractions, retail outlets, transportation operations, cruises and food and beverage outlets amongst others.
"Otherwise, Malaysian tourism industry will be trailing behind neighbouring countries.Travellers will only venture into the world if they feel it is safe to do so. It is therefore crucial for industry stakeholders to provide them with confidence and peace of mind.
"For example, Visit Britain had recently announced plans for a "quality mark" to be rolled out across the country. The mark will denote to potentially nervous customers that the operators are conforming to Government regulations.
"The badge will act as a safeguard towards staff and visitors and earning it will require rigorous online training and
assessment session focused on hygiene and physical distancing which suppliers will need to complete before self-certifying. Spot checks will be carried out and the mark will be stripped from any business that is found to be non-compliant," he disclosed.
Additionally, countries like Turkey, Singapore, and Thailand are also developing and implementing a health and safety certification as a preventive and protective step for the tourists as well as to ensure that tourism is able to recover quickly once travel restrictions are lifted, Tan said.
According to him, implementation and coordination by the Government is vital to ensure that measures are in place to help rebuild confidence which are jointly embraced by the Government and private sector.
Many tourism businesses, he pointed out, are beginning to embrace the emergence of new norms positively, in preparation for when the situation starts to normalise.
"Given that the Government position views easing border controls as low priority and the Conditional Movement Control Order may not be lifted, the tourism industry will continue to suffer severe repercussions in terms of workers being laid off, hotels closing and tourism establishments folding up. About one million workers will soon lose their jobs if the situation continues driving tourism workers into poverty."
"On that note, MATTA welcomes the statement issued by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin AlMustaf a Billah Shah on urging the government to restore the country's tourism sector and set out schemes to support companies and businesses affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
"The support is essential to deliver an adequate and desirable environment to work towards revival of the nation's economy tourism industry," Tan concluded.