Uncertainty of pandemic hits Malaysia's tourism recovery, Difficult to sustain without opening up for international touristsUncertainty

Date: 31 Dec 2021
Malaysia's Tourism Recovery Series 1

Author 林安琪 Lim Ann Gee

[Road to Malaysia's Tourism Recovery Series 1]

Tourism has always been one of the main sources of income for the Malaysia economy. Prior to the pandemic outbreak, tourism pumped some RM86 billion into Malaysia in 2019. The industry has also created numerous job opportunities, adding 3.6 million jobs across the country.

However, the Coronavirus outbreak of 2020 has impacted industries across the world. The highly people-centric tourism industry was suddenly brought to a halt.

It has been two years and the Covid-19 pandemic has continued to rage on. Countries around the world have rolled out their vaccination drives to inoculate their population against the virus which has brought the number of confirmed cases down significantly. As the tourism industry almost saw signs of recovery on the horizon, a highly contagious Omicron variant of the virus was detected, setting the tourism industry even further back on their road to recovery.

Oriental Daily conducted a number of interviews with several Malaysian tourism industry players to get a better understanding of the current state of the industry.

Mint Leong, deputy president of the Malaysian Inbound Tourism Association (MITA), said that the unstable and uncertain pandemic has made the tourism industry unable to see a way forward.

According to her, the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus has had little impact on the domestic tourism industry in general, however it has had a more noticeable effect on the recovering inbound tourism industry.

"In this period of uncertainty, those of us in the industry cannot see a way forward. We are unable to make plans for anything because the pandemic is changing so often.”

大馬入境旅遊協會署理主席梁偉虹

For example, local inbound tourism operators had at first, planned to roll out several promotional activities in 2022 for tourism. However due to the uncertainty brought about by the Omicron variant, many of these projects had to be readjusted or put on hold.

Speaking frankly, she said that although Malaysia’s current tourism industry is experiencing a good recovery, the overall situation is still far from conducive for a full recovery of the tourism sector.

“Every stage of recovery has been short-lived. Progress flattens out and then recovery begins again before being flattened. This unpredictable state is far from conducive to the overall recovery of the tourism sector.”

She pointed out that in order to assist travel agencies with this recovery, the best solution for now would be to open up to allow many more inbound tourists in.

She believes that if the government does not aggressively push for the reopening of our borders, the inbound tourism industry will experience a late recovery and will be the industry that suffers the worst impact from the pandemic.

Hotel occupancy was less than 30% in 2021

Malaysian Association of Hotels CEO Yap Lip Seng also agreed that the hotel industry in Malaysia is in urgent need of foreign tourists.

They said that 45% of tourists in Malaysia’s hotel industry are foreign tourists while the remaining 55% are domestic tourists. In the absence of foreign tourists, the market demand from domestic tourists is not enough to sustain the local hotel industry.

They also mentioned that the emergence of the Omicron variant has cause many countries to tighten restrictions and shutter their borders once again in order to stem the spread of the virus. This, in turn, will delay the reopening of international borders and has become a major concern for the hotel industry.

According to them, before the coronavirus pandemic, the average occupancy rate of hotels in Malaysia in 2019 was 64%. In 2020 as the pandemic struck and the national Movement Control Order (MCO) was implemented, the average occupancy rate for hotels nationwide plunged by half to just 32%.

大馬酒店業協會首席執行員葉立聖

“We were expecting a better recovery in 2021, not knowing that it would end up worse since another MCO was imposed from January to October and interstate travel was only recently reopened.”

“In 2021 we expected the average occupancy of hotels (for the entire year) to be under 30%.”

He explained that at the moment, hotels in the country only have high occupancy rates on weekends or in areas with popular tourist attractions like Langkawi and Penang - but not elsewhere.

“Overall, the industry is still struggling, occasionally they have gotten a bit of the recovery on the operation, but not financially, so hotels still need to sustain and survive at this point.

The aviation industry’s slow recovery

Looking back on his experience in the last two years, Malindo Air CEO Captain Mushafiz Mustafa Bakri said that all airline companies have been hit hard by this unprecedented pandemic. Malindo Air’s revenue in March 2020 had tumbled by 95% compared to that of the previous year.

He told us that he originally believed that the coronavirus pandemic would pass quickly with an impact of just 4-6 months like the SARS outbreak. It ended up lasting for over two years.

In an interview with Oriental Daily, he said that due to the sharp drop in revenue, the airline was forced to downsize and major adjustments were made including the reduction of aircraft and employees to reduce costs.

“We returned 20 Boeing 777s and three ATR-72s. Without these aircraft in service, we had to lay off some employees either through termination or a Voluntary Separation Scheme (VSS). This has had a significant impact on our operations since 2020.”

He admitted that while the recovery of the Malaysian aviation market was very slow, the international market was doing much worse. He hopes that the pandemic will simmer down and that things will stabilise in the coming months.

“We wanted a bottomed-out V-shaped recovery, but what we really got is more of an L-shaped recovery.”

He said that the aviation industry is very concerned about the government’s actions and response to this new Covid variant as the operation of the aviation industry depends on the actions of the government.

He hopes the government will not take a zero based approach in dealing with this Covid-19 variant as Malindo Air has opted to take a risk-based approach with the experience they have accrued over the last two years in dealing with Covid-19 and its variants.


This article is developed under the SEAFORE project, with the support of IWPR
 

旅遊業一直都是大馬經濟的主要收入來源,在疫情發生前,在2019年旅遊業為國家帶來860億令吉的收益,同時也創造了大量工作機會,全國有360萬人在旅遊業工作。

然而,2020年新冠肺炎在全球全面爆發,讓全球各地的行業都受到衝擊,尤其是以人為本的旅遊業更是陷入寒冬。

新冠疫情肆虐迄今兩年,隨著世界各國開始接種新冠疫苗,確診病例開始下降後,眼看旅遊業開始邁向復甦的道路,近日卻發現具有高度傳染性的變種病毒奧密克戎(Omicron),讓旅遊業原本艱辛的復甦之路蒙上一層灰。

《東方日報》訪問了多名旅遊生態圈的業者,了解大馬旅遊業所處在的困境。

大馬入境旅遊協會署理主席梁偉虹表示,不穩定及不明朗的疫情,讓旅遊業看不到前路。

她說,新冠變種病毒Omicron目前對本地旅遊業影響不大,但是絕對衝擊到正在復甦的入境旅遊業。

[ 在這個不穩定當中,讓所有的業者都好像看不到前路。我們不能去計劃任何東西,因為疫情轉變太快了。]

大馬入境旅遊協會署理主席梁偉虹
大馬入境旅遊協會署理主席梁偉虹


她舉例,入境旅遊業者原本計劃在2022年進行很多推廣旅遊業的活動,由於變種病毒帶來的不確定性,使到很多項目必須重新調整,或暫時擱置下來。

她坦言,儘管我國目前的旅遊生態環境的復甦一致向好,但是大環境還是不利於旅遊業的全面復甦。

「所有復甦的階段,他可以是好像一個短暫性的復甦,然後趨回平淡,然後又進一步復甦,然後又穩一穩,這些不明朗和不確定,對所有旅遊業者都是一個傷害。」

她指出,要幫助旅行社的復甦,在目前來說只有引進大量的入境遊客才是最佳解決方法。

她認為,如果政府沒有大力促進邊境開放的政策,入境旅遊業將會是最後一個復甦的行業,同時也是爆發疫情是第一個直面最大影響的行業。
 

2021年酒店入住率不到30%

大馬酒店業協會首席執行員葉立聖也認同,我國酒店業的復甦迫切需要國際旅客。

他說,我國酒店業有45%的客源來自國際旅客,其餘55%來自國內旅客,因此在國際旅客的缺席下,國內的市場需求不足以支撐國內酒店業。

他也說,變種病毒Omicron的出現讓很多國家設置更多限制,關閉邊界嚴防病毒傳播,這將推遲國際邊界的重新開放,是酒店業的一大擔憂。

他表示,新冠疫情前,大馬酒店2019年全年平均入住率為64%;2020年在面對疫情和全國行動管制令後,全年平均入住率掉了一半,只有32%。

大馬酒店業協會首席執行員葉立聖
大馬酒店業協會首席執行員葉立聖

[ 我們原先預計2021年會更好地復甦,哪裡知道更糟糕,因為1月至10月都落實行管令,最近才准許跨州出行。]

[ 2021年,我們預計酒店的(全年)平均入住率將低於30%。]

他解釋,目前我國的酒店只有在週末,或者熱門旅遊景點,如浮羅交怡和檳城等地的酒店有很高的入住率,但是其他地方則不然。

[ 總體而言,酒店業仍在苦苦掙扎,運營方面偶爾看見復甦,但在財務上卻不見起色。]


航空業復甦緩慢

他坦言,我國本地市場的復甦很慢,國際市場更差,因此希望未來數個月,新冠肺炎疫情更穩定。

回顧過去兩年的經歷,馬印航空首席執行員慕斯沙菲益表示,所有航空業者都在這場前所未有的疫情下受到嚴重的打擊,而馬印航空在2020年3月的營業額和收入相較上一年下跌了95%。

他坦言,原本以為新冠疫情會很快過去,可能像非典型肺炎(SARS)般帶來4至6個月的影響,但是卻帶來超過兩年的影響。

他在接受《東方日報》訪問時說,由於收入銳減,被迫縮減航空公司的規模,緊急做出重大調整,包括減少飛機和人力,以降低成本。

[ 我們歸還了20架波音777飛機和3架ATR-72飛機,在沒有飛機的情況下,我們不得不解僱我們的員工,終止他們的合同或提供自願遣散方案(VSS)。這極大地影響了我們自 2020 年以來的營運。]

他坦言,我國本地市場的復甦很慢,國際市場更差,因此希望未來數個月,新冠肺炎疫情更穩定。

[ 我們想要一個谷底反彈的V字復甦曲線,但現實是呈L字復甦曲線。]

他說,航空業非常關注政府對待新變種病毒的動作和反應,因為航空業的操作取決於政府的決定。

他希望,政府在面對新冠變種病毒時,不要採取零基方法,因為馬印航空採取風險基礎方法,在過去兩年不斷累積經驗,已經懂得處理新冠肺炎和其變種病毒。


備注 : 此專題報導為戰爭與和平報導研究所(IWPR)支持的SEAFORE東盟精英項目(SEAFORE ASEAN Masterclass project)之一。