THE government has been called to extend the loan moratorium for the tourism sector by another six months.

The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) president, Datuk Tan Kok Liang, said tourism industry players had been deprived of income since March this year.

He said the industry is recognised as a significant job provider and an important contributor to the nation’s economy, which has been hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said as thankful as the industry players were for the loan repayment moratorium granted by the financial institutions since April to keep the tourism sector afloat, tourism stakeholders had to look at their inability to service loans due to regulatory constraints and weak demand.

“We believe that individual borrowers working in the hospitality and tourism industry should also be given a six-month
moratorium extension as many are currently on pay cuts, unpaid leave or had been retrenched.

“Many do not have the ability to repay their loans under current pressing circumstances and the rate of unemployment is rapidly increasing,” he said in a statement yesterday.

Tan added that the tourism sector derived a large portion of earnings from international tourists.

“How can they survive if the borders stay closed? With no firm direction from the government on the easing of borders (closure), it is only appropriate to request that the government initiate and order an extension of the moratorium, rather than industry players seeking an extension from their respective banks on their own which would likely be turned down, especially after the prime minister (Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin) announced on July 6 that the industry would take four years to recover.”

Tan said the industry’s collective inability to service its debts was due to external forces beyond its control.

“We urge the government to take proactive actions to step in, rather than leave the decision to the various private banking institutions that will make decisions based on industry risk assessment and maximising their shareholders’ wealth.”

He added that the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry had estimated the losses suffered by the sector to amount to some RM45 billion in tourism receipts and about a million workers in the industry were expected to lose their jobs this year.

“To effectively revive the tourism industry, specifically the domestic segment, we are doing our part, by redoubling our efforts to push for packages with attractive rates to cater for the new travelling environment with safe and yet enjoyable new experiences.”

Tan said, however, the biggest challenge faced by travel agents in domestic tourism was Malaysian travellers who often
opted to “go on their own”.

“They (domestic travellers) do not realise that a personalised travel experience tailored by travel agents often results in time-saving, convenience and peace of mind as licensed tour operators are always 24/7 ready for their client during their tour stay.

“We are committed to reviving the tourism industry to its full course. We hope that by granting the six-month extension, more tourism players will be helped to weather the challenges.

“The government, together with Bank Negara Malaysia, must step in. It is hoped that the government and the relevant bodies will make it a priority and look into these crucial requests to ensure progress in the recovery of
Malaysia’s travel and tourism industry,” Tan said.