Open borders to vaccinated tourists to revive tourism industry – MITA

KUALA LUMPUR : Malaysia needs to start planning for the recovery of its tourism industry, such as implementing strategies to open up its international borders to tourists who have received the COVID-19 vaccine jabs, once the Movement Control Order (MCO) 3.0 ends.

Malaysian Inbound Tourism Association (MITA) president Uzaidi Udanis said that in its efforts to revive the deteriorating tourism industry, Malaysia should look at and study other country’s best practices, such as Qatar, the Maldives and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Uzaidi said the association also hoped that the MKN would give the nod for the domestic travel bubble after the MCO, with travel bookings through travel agents only. – Bernama

“We need to initiate a sandbox (experiment) where we can test specific destinations, such as Qatar-Malaysia, for example, before opening up to other destinations.”

“At the same time, we should also look at allowing vaccinated tourists to visit Malaysia without having to go through a quarantine period from October onwards, with compulsory bookings through travel agents,” he told reporters in a press conference via Zoom today (May 18).

He said the association also hoped that the National Security Council (MKN) would give the nod for the domestic travel bubble after the MCO, with travel bookings through travel agents only.

To ensure the survival of the tourism industry, Uzaidi called for an automatic loan moratorium, with zero interest, for all loans effective immediately until the end of the year to all individual tourism players and tourism companies who have loan facilities before March 2020.

He also requested for a tax waiver to be extended to all travel agents for five years from 2021 to 2025, since that is how long the tourism industry is expected to take to recover, as well as another round of one-off cash assistance to tourism players.

He also called for the implementation of a special waiver on insurance and road tax, including the Puspakom fee for all valid registered tourism vehicles, for three years from 2021-2024.

“There are about 9,990 registered tour buses in the market. So, based on a minimum rental income of RM600 per day, these bus operators are losing about RM6 million a day.”

“In addition, these bus operators need to pay a high insurance fee for tourism vehicles (van and tour buses), which ranges from RM1,000 to RM10,000 per year, even though the buses are not operational,” he said.

Meanwhile, Uzaidi also felt that the Bank Negara governor’s recent forecast of Malaysia’s economic growth was not an accurate reflection of what is happening in the tourism industry.

Bank Negara Malaysia governor Datuk Nor Shamsiah Mohd Yunus had recently said that Malaysia was on track for a 6 per cent to 7.5 per cent growth despite the imposition of the Movement Control Order 2.0 and the continued closure of international borders and restrictions on interstate travel.

“With the announcement of the MCO 3.0, the tourism industry is almost 100 per cent paralysed… there is no growth when interstate (travel is not allowed) and the international borders remain closed, plus it’s been reported that a few popular destinations, including Langkawi, have become like ghost islands with no tourists and suffering huge losses,” he said.

He added that a survey carried out among the 3,000 MITA members found that the pandemic has, so far, forced 10 per cent of its licensed travel agents to close shop, 70 per cent of its member companies to become dormant while 20 per cent are still surviving and active with fewer than two employees.

In view of the current high number of COVID-19 infections and deaths reported daily, the association also called on the government to issue stricter and total lockdown to ensure the nation breaks the chain of infection.

“We know that it will be tough for most of us, but we are ready to sacrifice for the sake of the country and the people. Once we are successful, we can practice a new norm of travelling, with strict compliance of the standard operating procedure (SOP),” he said.

BERNAMA / ASTRO AWANI

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