Malaysian tourism bodies plead for moratorium extension as crisis deepens

A group of tourism associations in Malaysia have come together to urge the government to extend the loan moratorium for the travel and tour industry ending September 30 by another six months.

The call comes from the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) together with the Malaysian Inbound Tourism Association, Bumiputera Travel and Tour Agents Association of Malaysia, Malaysia Chinese Tourism Association, Malaysian Indian Tour & Travel Association (MITTA), Malaysia Inbound Chinese Association and Tour Bus Operators Association of Peninsular Malaysia.

Malaysia’s tourism businesses in dire need of a moratorium extension due to headwinds posed by the pandemic

Speaking on behalf of the associations, MATTA president, Tan Kok Liang, said: “To date, travel agents and tour operators have hardly had any business. Hence, without any income, how are they expected to service the loans of their vehicles and businesses?”

He added that travel agents and tour operators have not been able to benefit from the flourishing domestic tourism market, as domestic travellers opt to book directly with hotels to save on third-party fees. Also, travellers are choosing to do self-drive instead of hiring vehicles owned by travel agencies or tour operators.

“Due to the fact that everyone in the tourism industry is hungry for business, not only the hotels have gone directly to the consumers; airlines and attraction operators too have joined the fray. They, too, have offered packages and ignored the fact that license imposed by the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture is required,” he said.

“Likewise, outbound tour operators and travel agencies are equally hard hit with hundreds of millions tied up in airline and hotel bookings that they have made on behalf of their clients.”

Tan highlighted that several tourism companies have appealed for the extension on the loan moratorium with the banks, but to no avail as the loan moratorium extension is only accessible to individuals, not companies.

Banks are only providing a rescheduling procedure to support businesses and impose a certain interest rate, depending on the situation, he said.

Rescheduling of the loan repayment is not a viable option for many tourism companies, he added, as their businesses have been running at zero income over the past six months, with the situation likely to persist in the next several months.

He also noted the recent travel advisory on entry restrictions where citizens from 23 countries have been barred from entering the country, including those from major inbound markets to Malaysia such as India, Indonesia, Philippines, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Russia and the UK.

In light of this, the hope for travel bubbles with some of these countries to boost the restart of tourism has now been dashed, Tan said, adding that “the industry can expect a further prolongation of the situation and will not be surprised that recovery can only happen in the second quarter of 2021”.

He said: “The government needs to assist us urgently by extending the loan moratorium for at least another six months due to the dire situation as mentioned above. Failing which, (it) will lead to a situation where most of us will be forced to shut down our businesses or may end up in bankruptcy. This situation will add on to the unemployment and retrenchment of the tourism workforce.”

Stressing that the tourism industry is now “in a grievous state” and “in dire need of all the help we can get”, Tan urged the government “to exercise its moral responsibility and reassess the situation in assisting and providing further extension on the loan moratorium for the tourism industry, particularly the travel and tour sector”.

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