Moving travel industry forward

IT IS no secret that Malaysia’s tourism sector has been greatly impacted by the Covid-19 outbreak, similar to the fate suffered by so many countries worldwide.

It will be necessary for the authorities and stakeholders to have strategic plans in place, when the movement control order (MCO) is lifted, to make travellers feel safe while travelling.Exhibition and conference centres too have taken a bad hit as people now resort to tele-conferencing to communicate and turn to virtual space to congregate for meetings.

StarMetro spoke to the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA), various state tourism authorities, and the Malaysia Convention and Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB) to learn about their plans to help revive the industry.

Agents, centres preparing

MATTA president Datuk Tan Kok Liang said the new norm would see health and safety protocols put in place in the value chain to ensure safety of tourists and the local community.He said this would inevitably boost travel confidence.“Business plans, travel arrangements and tourism products need to be modified to take into account the new priorities, ” he added.

Tan says business plans, travel arrangements and tourism products need to be modified to take into account new priorities.

Tan says business plans, travel arrangements and tourism products need to be modified to take into account new priorities.

Technology, he said, would play an even bigger role in many activities relevant to the tourism industry, which could also be one of the key directional changes that stakeholders would push hard for.“It is also vital for industry players to engage with tourism boards to understand products better and to come up with greater marketing strategies post Covid-19, ” added Tan.

MyCEB plans to work with industry players and stakeholders to help Malaysia’s economy get back on track.

Perak wants to leverage on its ‘green state’ reputation by promoting tourist sites like the scenic Gunung Lang in Ipoh.Its spokesperson said the bureau planned to strategise promotion and marketing efforts as well as invent creative and innovative ways to reach the intended market segment.

“Through our on-going engagement with industry players, associations and all affected parties on the ground, we will be able to ensure industry players prosper post Covid-19, ” the spokesperson said.He added that re-strategising marketing efforts was also top priority, as well as targeting those who have interacted with MyCEB in the past to generate future business.“It can be extremely cost-effective, because you know you are reaching out to people who have some interest in what you are offering.

“During a recession, you should continue to advertise so that when consumers start buying again, you will be top on their radar, ” he added.

States’ take on issue

Sarawak Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said the state was reviewing industry insights through surveys conducted by the Sarawak Tourism Board (STB), Business Events Sarawak (BES) and STF (Sarawak Tourism Federation) to analyse the impact of Covid-19 in the industry.Also in discussion were ways to improve the current “responsible travel” experience in Sarawak, in addition to being innovative in marketing products after the MCO was lifted.

“Tourism will be slower to pick up its momentum after the MCO is lifted compared to other industries.“It is the right time to do a product audit to improve the current product standard and quality, and introduce new products to tourists, ” he said, adding that products and packages would be made available on e-commerce platforms by leveraging the Sarawak Travel App and portal.

Abdul Karim said Sarawak’s estimated targeted tourist arrivals for this year was originally five million, but it has reduced to 2.4 million --- a 52% drop due to Covid-19.

The White Cat statue at Padungan in Kuching wearing a face mask and holding a banner from the Kuching South City Council reminding the public to stay at home. - ZULAZHAR SHEBLEE / THE STAR

Perak housing, local government, public transport and tourism committee chairman Datuk Nolee Ashilin Mohd Radzi said programmes to kick-start the tourism industry in stages and mitigate the adverse effects of Covid-19 were in the pipeline.This includes a campaign on cultivating safety as well as building confidence to complement ongoing promotion initiatives.

“Cultivating safety will be done through product owners or operators implementing safety procedures, and travellers practising responsible travelling.“The possibility of getting local authorities to periodically certify or inspect the premises based on the Health Ministry’s guidelines is being looked at.

“We also want to leverage on Perak’s reputation as a ‘green state’ by promoting domestic tourism, ” she said.

Abdul Karim says it is vital to introduce new products to tourists once the MCO is lifted.

Abdul Karim says it is vital to introduce new products to tourists once the MCO is lifted.

Tourism Selangor is also banking on domestic tourism.

Its general manager Azrul Mohd Shah said collaboration with key industry players would be held for the initiative, such as hotel and accommodation operators, travel and tour agencies as well as MATTA, Malaysian Association of Hotels and Malaysian Inbound Tourism Association.

He added that its advertising initiatives nationwide would also not be affected, to keep promotional efforts going at a constant pace.

Sabah plans to develop new tourism products to improve the situation while empowering the local community.

Tourism Selangor plans to focus on promoting local tourist sites.

A state Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry spokesperson said Sabah had facilitated the development of the community-based tourism (CBT) effort to help locals forge relationships with potential tour agents to package new products.

“We will continue with this effort.

“Besides allowing economic gains for this community, CBT has allowed tourists in Sabah to disperse beyond the regular attractions, ” added the spokesperson. Tourism operators and hotels, he said, would have to come up with suitable standard operating procedures (SOP) as they were the main point of contact for tourists.

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