LETTER | Paradigm shift key to tour operators’ survival

YS Chan


LETTER | Nationwide, there are about 6,500 travel and tour companies and branches. They are registered with the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture (MoTAC). Furthermore, these companies must be a member of at least one of the seven travel associations endorsed by MoTAC.

The Malaysian Tourism Council (MTC) is not one of them. It is meant to be an umbrella body for all tourism non-governmental organisations, not limited to travel associations. But MTC lacks industry clout because its membership does not include the largest travel associations.

Nevertheless, my interest was piqued upon reading the headline of a report stating that Malaysia’s tourism players still pack a healthy dosage of enthusiasm. MTC says all hope is not lost while the Covid-19 pandemic has left the tourism industry hanging by a thread.

But the rest of the proclamation was nothing more than brave or encouraging words without any concrete solution or proposal. Travel industry players will perish unless they get real and become innovative. Being stubborn or optimistic alone will not bring home the bacon.

Those who have faced reality have given up on international travel for this year and the next. More than 95 percent of tour operators depended on inbound or outbound tours for their business, and domestic tour packages may sustain less than five percent of existing companies.

If so, it would be prudent to scale down by operating with a skeleton staff, smaller office, and lower overheads. It may be wiser to close the business down temporarily, as it could easily be restarted in 2022, provided the market becomes feasible, but it may not be for a very long time.

From June, all Malaysians and non-citizens such as participants in Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) programme returning from abroad must be quarantined to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Malaysians must pay half the cost of quarantine services while non-citizens in full.

Many countries around the world remain under lockdown and borders will gradually reopen when it is safe to do so. Still, sudden lockdowns could be imposed in the event of an outbreak within or in a neighbouring country, or entry denied for visitors from coronavirus hotspots.

Such risks certainly take the fun out of leisure travel and going overseas will be largely for essential travel. Until a vaccine is ready or a cure found to treat Covid-19, precautions taken at every stage of travel, including quarantine, are ordeals holidaymakers would not put up with.

In such a scenario, those travelling to Malaysia on tour packages could drop by 90 percent compared to the volume last year. In other words, inbound tour operators will be operating at only 10 percent capacity when international travel resumes, and none during movement control order (MCO) or conditional MCO.

Outbound tour operators will also be in the same boat, as not more than 10 percent of their prospective customers are prepared to travel overseas in the near future. But all outbound tour companies are also granted inbound licence, which allows them to operate domestic tours.

Contrary to popular belief, those venturing into domestic tours now do not necessarily lose out to established players. This is because existing domestic tour packages, although extensively promoted, are not popular going by the limited numbers sold.

Instead of copying and dishing out more of the same, newcomers should be innovative and create interesting tours that can be made popular for the masses, and not on adventures into the jungle which could easily be do-it-yourself (DIY) arrangements by nature enthusiasts.

Every city and large town have a huge pool of residents that can be lured to go on fascinating and fulfilling excursions in tour buses with daily departures. With the help of outside expertise, local authorities and tour operators would be able to organise and run these bus tours daily.

But without such help, the locals would remain clueless, as people are usually blinded by familiarity. Other than famous or popular landmarks, it takes an outsider with a fresh pair of eyes to notice what has been overlooked or unearth hidden resources that can attract visitors.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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