Domestic travel post Covid-19 to help tourism sector recover

THE unprecedented societal changes brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic are dramatically affecting international and domestic tourism.

Travelling overseas is perceived to make one more susceptible to contracting the virus as compared to domestic travel which is seen to be safer while helping the local travel industry that has been hit hard by the crisis.

Tourism Malaysia’s data summary showed the travel industry had contributed RM41.7 bil to the country’s economy from January to June last year and is the third-biggest contributor to the gross domestic product (GDP), after manufacturing and commodities.

In recent years, the tourism industry in Southeast Asia has experienced significant growth, and Malaysia is keen to capitalise on this trend. The “Visit Malaysia 2020” campaign had the ambitious targets of drawing 30 million visitors and RM100 bil in tourism receipts in 2020.

Unfortunately, the pandemic has caused massive disruption to the industry and forced the government to cancel the Visit Malaysia Year.

Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) honorary secretary-general Nigel Wong said domestic travel will play a key role in helping a portion of the tourism industry to recover.

“There are many, many attractions both man-made and natural that can be promoted to Malaysian holiday-seekers after this pandemic is over.

“To further spur domestic travel, airlines, hotels and themed attractions should consider special domestic prices — travel agencies can then combine these products into a large variety of value-added packages,” he told FocusM.

However, Wong said travel trends will definitely change after Covid-19 and there will definitely be changes to the types of holidays people take and to the frequency and mode of travel.

“Consumers may become more comfortable with shopping for tourism products online and many regulations may have to be revised in order to ensure that our local domestic tourism businesses stay relevant and competitive in the digital space,” he opined.

He added that the industry will need more time to return to some semblance of normality.

“There will be physical challenges as people will still be wary of going to places where they may be subject to close proximity to other people — product owners (including transportation providers) may have to put special guidelines in place to cater to these new preferences and habits which have been developed due to Covid-19.”

Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) CEO Yap Lip Seng said if you look from different perspectives, domestic tourism is an alternative for Malaysians who are not able to travel overseas.

“We have recognised for a long time that travel is no longer a ‘want’ but almost a ‘need’ for most Malaysians and what better time to explore the hidden gems of Malaysia than now (after Covid-19),” he told FocusM.

Yap said the hotel industry will see an increased interest in all-inclusive accommodation, minimising exposure while maximising experience, catered to the needs and wants of Malaysians by targeting individual interests based on their demographics.

“All at a cost that is reasonable and that is also eligible for the personal income tax relief of up to RM1,000 as announced by the government this year.”

He shared the uphill challenge is to build confidence, and hotels are planning ahead to ensure all efforts to clean and sanitise the hotels are being documented according to Ministry of Health and industry best practices.

“At the industry level, we at MAH are also planning a Clean & Safe Malaysia campaign where hotels that fulfil a set of requirements will be certified clean and safe, endorsed by the relevant authorities.

“However for accommodation, we strongly urge travellers to choose legitimate tourist accommodation for assurance and peace of mind. Do not take the risk with unregulated accommodation such as home-sharing and Airbnb.” — April 21, 2020