MATTA calls for rescue plan following return of MCO

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) has urged the government to rescue the industry following the return of the Movement Control Order (MCO) this year.

Its president Datuk Tan Kok Liang said tour and travel agents have been battling with collapsing revenue and liquidity problems since the start of the pandemic.

"However, the government's efforts have not made any significant impact on this segment of the industry.

"Tourism businesses are currently in extreme distress due to the very fragile and uncertain business environment which is expected to continue late into 2021," he said in a statement today.

With MCO re-enforced this year, he said the industry is expecting more hotels to close or wind-up while more travel agents especially those owning tourism vehicles are very likely to face the same fate as hoteliers.

He stressed that the tourism sector has been one of the key contributors to Malaysia's gross domestic product (GDP) with 14.1 per cent (RM166 billion) in 2015, 14.5 per cent (RM182 billion) in 2016, 14.6 per cent (RM201 billion) in 2017, 15.2 per cent (RM220 billion) in 2018 and 15.9 per cent (RM240 billion) in 2019.

With the exception of last year, Tan believes the tourism sector is vitally important to the country and urged the government to come up with an enhanced and targeted rescue plan.

MATTA called on the government to provide loan moratorium extensions and enhanced wage subsidy programmes until June 30 this year.

They also proposed for reliefs on rental, insurance and statutory licensing fees to help those who are affected especially the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) who already had to burn a lot of cash just to survive the last MCO.

"Over 5,000 travel companies are now in the 'ICU' condition and the government needs to initiate rehabilitation programmes as the situation will get worse.

"Allowing travel agents to close business premises and operate from home and the cancellation of the mandatory Travel & Tours Enhancement Course (TTEC) programmes for travel companies are good gestures of support," he added.

In the meantime, he suggested the association members go for re-skilling, though they were not directly supported by the government at the moment.

"It is also imperative for the government to resolve the issues on deposits held by airlines and related service providers, make urgent corrections to the (outdated) Tourism Industry Act 1992 and provide flexibility of approval for conversion of tour buses into other categories. This will allow these buses to be utilied for other purposes - these are practical measures that the government needs to assist."

"It is no longer 'business as usual' under the Covid-19 pandemic and we urge the various government agencies to make immediate policy changes to ease the financial burden of the hardest hit industry in Malaysia," he said.

Selangor, Penang, Melaka, Johor, Sabah, Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Labuan are now under the MCO following a spike in Covid-19 cases recently.

Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced that the MCO would be in effect for two weeks until Jan 26.

The Health Ministry projected that the daily cases will reduce to between 1,000 and 500 within four to five weeks.