Unproductive, antiquated policies hindering tourism recovery

IN 2019, RM92.6 bil was recorded for domestic tourism expenditure, RM89.4 bil for inbound and RM44.8 bil for outbound. Combined, they amounted to a hefty RM226.8 bil.

In 2020, domestic tourism expenditure decreased by 58% to RM38.7 bil, inbound fell by 85% to RM13.7 bil and outbound dropped by 62% to RM17.1 bil, all due to travel restrictions.

It would take a long time for international travel to regain its former glory, having reached its acme in 2019 before being brought crushing down in 2020 by the COVID-19 pandemic.

For tourism businesses that were reduced to ashes, what are their chances of being resurrected?

As the world will continuously be disrupted by future pandemics, natural disasters, terrorism, armed conflicts and major wars, the future certainly looks bleak.

But then again, human beings will get numb to such threats and will carry on with life as usual as if there is no tomorrow.

And if they could brush aside the spectre of war and doomsday clock ticking ever closer to midnight, they are not going to allow any pandemic to stop them from travelling and enjoying what the world has to offer.

Tourism will recover even before it is completely safe to travel.

Therefore, combined tourism expenditures for domestic, inbound and outbound plummeted by 69% from RM226.8 bil in 2019 to only RM69.5 bil last year.

Therefore, it would be rather pointless to continue with lockdowns such as imposing travel restrictions within the country and tightening borders to choke the flow of citizens and foreigners entering and leaving our country.

As COVID-19 is expected to become endemic in Malaysia, we will have to learn to live with the coronavirus.

While citizens are reminded to change and adjust to live in the new normal, the authorities must first lead the way by replacing old measures with the new.

Antiquated mindsets could cause more harm than good.

The revised Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) programme have sent ripples across foreign communities affecting not only retirees living here but also deterring foreign visitors, students, businesses and investments.

The tagline “Malaysia Truly Asia” had successfully projected our country’s image that we could showcase to the world the best that Asia could offer, having benefited from large numbers of people and their cultures from west, south, southeast and east Asia settling in Malaysia.

But retrogressive leadership would send our nation into the backwaters, while countries that have managed to break free from shackles imposed by selfish leaders are developing fast and racing ahead.

Bent on wanting to be insular and exclusive, we are sliding down a slippery slope.

Never-ending sloganeering are nothing more than syiok sendiri exercises and meaningless to those who are unemployed, weak or hungry.

Talk is cheap but sickening to hear. What we need are concrete steps to lift millions out of poverty, more so as the B40 group had grown much bigger compared to before the pandemic hit.

Sadly, our politicians continue to fan the flames of race, religion and royalty to gain popularity, power and possessions instead of putting in genuine efforts to bring real benefits to the people such as job opportunities, raising income, advancing healthcare and overhauling education.

With the help of sufficient funding by the Government and positive tourism performance, I believe that those issues can be addressed, if not solved.

However, this would only happen when tourist and business-friendly policies are put in place.

By : YS Chan (A master trainer for Mesra Malaysia and an Asean Tourism Master Trainer) – FOCUS MALAYSIA

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