In the throes of a second lockdown and faced with a bleak forecast on travel this year, the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) is calling on the government to come up with an enhanced and targeted rescue plan for tour and travel agents.
MATTA president Tan Kok Liang said in a statement: “Tourism businesses are currently in extreme distress due to the very fragile and uncertain business environment which is expected to continue late into 2021. Tour and travel agents have been battling with collapsing revenue and liquidity problems since the start of the pandemic and the government’s efforts have not made any significant impact on this segment of the industry.”
Tan also stressed on the importance of the tourism sector to Malaysia’s economy, being the third largest contributor towards the national GDP in the previous years. In 2019, the tourism industry supplied 15.9 per cent, equivalent to RM240 billion (US$59.4 billion), to the country’s GDP.
However, the pandemic’s impact on the tourism industry has led to an estimated total loss exceeding RM100 billion for 2020.
“While the hotel industry is expecting more hotels to close or wind-up due to the second phase of MCO (movement control order) and continuous closure of borders, more travel agents, especially those owning tourism vehicles, are very likely to face the same fate as those hoteliers,” said Tan.
In the face of mounting losses, he urged the government to extend the loan moratorium and enhanced wage subsidy programmes until June 30, 2021. “Reliefs on rental, insurance and statutory licensing fees are also needed to help those who are affected, especially the SMEs who have already had to burn a lot of cash just to survive the last MCO,” he added.
Urging travel businesses to go for consolidation and mergers, Tan said: “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.” Measures he cited include allowing travel agents to close business premises and operate from home and cancelling the mandatory Travel & Tours Enhancement Course programmes for travel companies.
Other measures that Tan said the government needs to assist are: resolving the issues on deposits held by airlines and related service providers, making urgent corrections to the Tourism Industry Act 1992, and providing flexibility of approval for conversion of tour buses into other categories so these buses can be utilised for other purposes.
He concluded: “The tourism sector has been burdened by bureaucracy and over-governance affecting the industry’s regional and global competitiveness. Overlapping jurisdictions by multiple government agencies has stifled the industry over the many years.
“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.”