Pandemic fears hamper Malaysia’s tourism recovery

Malaysia’s interstate travel ban has been lifted on June 10 but tour operators are seeing slow crawl to domestic recovery due to persistent fears of infection.

Uzaidi Udanis, general manager, Eyes Holidays, described demand as “trickling in” but for hometown visits to see loved ones and relatives, which were restricted during the movement control order (MCO). Their visits are then extended with a short holiday to a beach or island destination.

Beach and island holidays are gaining popularity among domestic travellers in Malaysia; aerial view of a floating resort at Port Dickson, Malaysia pictured

He shared: “For families looking for a weekend outing, the requests we get are usually (for somewhere) within a three-hour drive. We see more requests for self-drive packages as travellers are not yet confident using public transport or travelling by air.”

Uzaidi’s target market are city dwellers living in the Klang Valley. He sees demand for day visits and homestays to experience local village cuisine as well as to beaches such as Port Dickson.

Raaj Navaratnaa, general manager, New Asia Holiday Tours & Travel, said the pandemic has heightened consumer awareness around cleanliness, with more travellers enquiring about the standard operating procedures (SOPs) and hygiene protocols in place at their holiday destinations.

He has observed pent-up demand for travel among Malaysian residents, and urged the local state tourism authorities to “come out with policies to jumpstart the tourism industry”.

Mint Leong, managing director at Sunflower Holidays, believes it will take time for the domestic market to recover, as many businesses and employees have been affected by the MCO.

Leong noted that measures to discourage senior citizens from outdoor activities, such as museums and galleries admitting only those aged 13 to 60, are hindering the recovery of domestic tourism. She said the older consumers are “the ones with time and money to spend”.

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