Tour operators in Malaysia are keeping busy preparing for the reopening of borders, even as authorities extend the country’s third movement control order (MCO) which should have ended yesterday (June 14) by a fortnight until June 28.
The extension of the nationwide lockdown, based on recommendations from the health ministry, was deemed necessary as the number of new Covid-19 cases remain high.
On Friday, when the government made its announcement to extend the lockdown, the health ministry reported 6,849 new cases that day, the highest single-day rise in new cases recorded last week, with a record 912 patients warded in intensive care units.
As bans on inter-district and interstate travel remain under the extended lockdown, the Malaysian Inbound Tourism Association (MITA) has postponed its eTravel Fair to August 15-19. The eTravel Fair, featuring domestic travel packages, was originally scheduled from June 17-21.
While domestic travel has temporarily come to a standstill, Adam Kamal, secretary-general at MITA, shared that the association is currently disseminating information to its members on all the financial assistance that various government agencies has made available to the travel trade.
Tourism players whom TTG Asia spoke to predicted that the lifting of domestic travel is unlikely to happen anytime soon, and some were using the downtime to upskill their staff and invest in product development.
Mint Leong, managing director, Sunflower Holidays, projected that interstate travel will only be allowed to resume this year-end, and that only those vaccinated will be allowed to cross state borders.
In the meantime, her staff are keeping themselves occupied by watching webinars, documentaries and online programmes on destination marketing while working from home.
Leong shared that she herself has been keeping busy by watching online cruising videos uploaded by various cruise companies. She will also be attending the upcoming virtual IT&CM China as a trade buyer to engage with Chinese sellers on product updates as well as to listen to the online presentations during the show.
Yap Sook Ling, managing director, Asian Overland Services Tours & Travel, shared that the company is using the downtime to prepare more tour packages in anticipation of the reopening of the country’s borders which she hoped would happen sometime next year.
The company is also leveraging its online B2B system to sell to their overseas partners rooms, tickets and tours to destinations that have already opened up. Furthermore, the agency is also providing training programmes in critical thinking, reservations and sales for its staff.
Yap stressed that at the end of the day, achieving herd immunity quickly is vital for the survival of the local tourism sector, and that the government’s move to ramp up the national Covid-19 immunisation programme is a step in the right direction.