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Slow but steady boom expected in tourism

PETALING JAYA: The return of international tourists to Malaysia may get off to a slow start when the country’s borders are reopened on April 1.

However, tourism industry players expect the influx of foreign visitors to pick up when all Covid-19 travel kinks are ironed out.

Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) chief executive officer Yap Lip Seng said a minimal increase in the number of tourist arrivals was expected for the first month, but this was expected to grow by the third quarter of this year.

“The reopening could go both ways, especially during the initial implementation period – instead of getting more arrivals, we could see more Malaysian opting to travel overseas.

“We will likely see a minimal increase at first because travellers would be unsure of the requirements on both sides.

“But it (borders being reopened) is essential and long overdue,” he said.

Yap said there should be more effort in marketing and promotions to put Malaysia back on the world tourism map.
“We are already losing out to neighbouring countries that have been aggressively marketing their reopening initiatives, and need to do more to attract travellers not only for leisure but also business,” he said.

Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents president Datuk Tan Kok Liang said the reopening of international borders would be significant in helping the tourism sector recover.

However, the sales volume for inbound travel until the end of this year is estimated to be around 10% of the pre-Covid-19 period.

“This is in line with the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry forecast of two million visitors for 2022.
“Outbound travel is expected to have better growth with Malaysian travellers selecting destinations that have totally eased Covid-19 testing and quarantine rules.

“More travellers are expected to book through tour operators and travel agencies due to the different SOP (standard operating procedure) in various destinations and special assistance for tourists who test positive.
“With a strong emphasis on safety, DIY (do-it-yourself) travellers will find the experience challenging,” he said.

MAH’s Yap said the buka puasa (breaking of fast) market during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan would be back.
“With the Omicron wave stabilising, hotels are expected to capitalise on it with a strict SOP in place,” he added.

Ready for travel!
Apple Vacations workers preparing luggage tags for their customers.

Apple Vacations group managing director Datuk Seri Koh Yock Heng said most outbound and inbound travel agencies had been hibernating since March 2020, when the first movement control order, including the travel ban, was implemented.

“With the reopening of the country’s borders on April 1, more holidaymakers are gathering information to plan for their holidays – both domestic and overseas.

“More travel agents are resuming their operations and preparing for upcoming travel fairs.

He added that international travel was slowly moving despite the cost being 20% to 30% higher due to airfare hikes following an increase in oil prices and limited airline routes.

Swiss Garden Beach Resort Kuantan sales and marketing director Linda Evelyn Wong said the resort was all geared up to welcome guests ahead of the Hari Raya Aidilfitri season, with buka puasa promotions, special rates and even wedding packages

Published in The Star, 28 Mar 2022