MATTA welcomes move to allow interstate travel

JOHOR BARU: The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) has welcomed the government's decision to allow interstate travel starting June 10.

Its president Datuk Tan Kok Liang said boosting domestic travel should be given top priority as it could help rejuvenate economic activities in the value chain, including tourist attractions and the aviation, accommodation, transportation, retail, food and beverage sectors.

"The service industry is a significant revenue earner and employment provider, so this will minimise retrenchment in the tourism industry," he said yesterday.

He also hoped that Sabah and Sarawak would likewise do the same without any other restrictions.

Tan said the government should also consider gradually opening up the country's borders to allow foreign tourists into the country.

"To wait until Aug 31 is a bit too long. So we hope that the government can open up our international borders gradually and allow those from countries such as Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei and Australia to enter Malaysia as they are low-risk from Covid-19," he said.

Tan said RM92.5bil was spent in domestic tourism in 2018 and RM83.1bil in 2017.

A total of 221.3 million domestic visitors were recorded in 2018, amounting to 302.4 million trips in the country, he added.

In George Town, Association of Tourist Attractions Penang (Atap) chairman Ch'ng Huck Theng said more than 60 of Atap's members were ready to reopen their facilities.

"Although we still have to wait for the fine print from the government, we are confident that our commercial markets, museums and parks would be allowed to open.

"This is because in Penang, the Atap members' attractions are not big theme parks with roller coaster or water attractions.

"Our attractions are more towards zoological gardens, museums, art galleries and eco parks, which can carry out social distancing and hygiene measures according to the standard operating procedure (SOP).

"We are confident that we will be able to ensure measures are taken within these areas," he said yesterday.

Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced that although interstate travel and domestic tourism were allowed, establishments that draw crowds like theme parks were still not allowed to open.

Malaysian Association of Hotels Penang chairman Khoo Boo Lim said a survey revealed a slow but consistent pickup of demand or hotel bookings for the coming

"Overall, hotels recorded demands for the third and fourth quarters of 2020, indicating that people need to travel and that they are taking advantage of promotions and packages introduced by hotels.

"We also see a steady demand for 2021, signalling confidence in recovery and the new norm as part of travel," he said.

He said Kedah, Perak, Johor, Pahang and Kelantan specifically were expecting short-term or immediate bookings.

"Langkawi and Negri Sembilan are looking at increased interest towards the year-end.

"Terengganu, Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Sarawak, on the other hand, saw bookings recorded consistently for Q3 and Q4 this year.

"But as the industry is expected to pick up, we hope attractions would be allowed to open as well," he said.

Khoo said attractions were one of the main things families and friends go for during holidays.

"If a family was visiting a state for holiday, surely they would want to do something or carry out activities and visit places.

"This would help boost room bookings for hotels.

"People do not just stay at hotels for no reason, unless they are visiting relatives in the state.

"So, it is important for attractions to open in order for hotels to thrive again," he said