The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) is calling for the government to develop and implement health and safety accreditation for tourism facilities to ease coronavirus fears among nervous travellers.
MATTA president Tan Kok Liang said in a media statement that the tourism industry has to tackle 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. The global private sector has aligned around the health and safety protocols to create consistency across the industry,” he said.
Noting local businesses operating at far below capacity, he urged authorities to replace the Stay At Home tagline with a more business-friendly one like Stay Safe so as “to portray a more positive message”.
With the battered global tourism industry facing headwinds as it maps out recovery strategies, Tan stressed that 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 said.
“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. 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.”
As such, Tan urged the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture and the Ministry of Health to initiate a health accreditation mark programme for the tourism value chain which includes aviation, hotels, tourism attractions, retail outlets, transportation operations, as well as cruises and F&B outlets.
Citing other nations doubling down on cleaning protocols and introducing health and sanitation accreditation to certify that its destinations are clean and safe, Tan said that it was vital for Malaysia to follow suit or risk trailing behind other destinations.
He elaborated: “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.
“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 further stressed that these measures are necessary to rebuild confidence, as many tourism businesses start to embrace the new norms positively, in preparation for a return to normalcy.