Malaysians eager to travel abroad again,
tour agents say

THE recently held Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) Fair drew a large number of eager Malaysians wanting to travel overseas after two years of being stuck at home, industry experts said.

They said the reopening of the country’s borders has given Malaysians a much needed boost, and as long as there is no major outbreak, they will continue to travel.

Matta secretary-general Nigel Wong said the most recent exhibition attracted more than 21,000 visitors.

“Based on preliminary reports, we managed to achieve our target of RM40 to RM45 million in sales,” Wong told The Malaysian Insight.

Many came to the exhibition to enquire on travel information as well as airfares, making the exhibition a success, he said.

Wong said many are opting for travel to Europe and Turkey while some are choosing to travel domestically due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Everyone has their preference but the fair showed that people are starting to travel again.”

For the time being, operators are focusing on the Asian and Indian markets, Wong said, including attracting travellers from there.

“Indian tourists are one of our target customers. They are the best tourists to support Malaysia.

“There is not much difference in terms of food and culture. They feel comfortable here.

“We are also focused on the South Korean and Australian markets, as indications show they will reopen their borders to tourists soon.”

Wong said that while cases in Malaysia and in European countries are still relatively high, as long as there are no major outbreaks, the tourism industry would not be affected.

Many Malaysians are eyeing travel to Europe and Turkey, while others are more cautious and opting for domestic destinations due to the Covid-19 pandemic. – The Malaysian Insight pic by Seth Akmal, April 17, 2022.

The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents Fair on April 9 and 10 draws more than 21,000 visitors. – The Malaysian Insight pic

High-income groups prioritise safety
Apple Vacations Sdn Bhd Group managing director Koh Yock Heng
said that during the fair, the company unveiled its 19 days and 16 nights Grand Antarctica in-depth Argentina-Ushuaia tour, which cost RM160,000 per person and it was sold out.

Koh believed that middle- and high-income groups are still looking forward to travelling abroad as the pandemic has not affected their livelihoods.

These groups are willing to fork out money to enjoy a high-end travel experience, he said.

“Those who have the spending power will choose high-end experiences and smaller tour groups. Whether it is a hotel or food, they are willing to pay.”

Koh said the most popular destinations at the fair were Australia, South Korea, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal and Turkey.

For local destinations, Southeast Asia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos were popular, he said.

Koh said many also came to ask about airfares, Covid-19 insurance, standard operating procedure in other countries and to ask on tour packages.

Due to the war in Ukraine, and given that some countries have not opened their borders, Koh said he advised those who want to travel to book their trips ahead of time to avoid rising airfares.

“Packages these days are more flexible where cancellations are allowed a month before departure and full refunds are allowed. Insurance can also give people peace of mind.”

With insurance, if someone catches Covid-19 midway in a trip, they can be treated locally, which is something agencies have to be aware of, Koh said.

“We have introduced 10 safety measures and tourists are willing to pay more to be safe.”

Apple Vacations Sdn Bhd Group managing director Koh Yock Heng says those who have the spending power will choose high-end experiences and smaller tour groups. – The Malaysian Insight pic

PTS Travel & Tours Sdn Bhd director Saw Being Teik said his company received positive response at the fair.

“Malaysians chose countries that do not require quarantine such as Europe and Turkey, which is very popular.

“The currency exchange makes travel to Turkey relatively affordable.”

Saw said there were also many enquiries for domestic travel, Saw said.

“We are relieved that many people came to visit and paid deposits for their trips.”

People are willing to put down deposits for their travel plans because they believe the situation will improve by August or October, Saw said.

Packages are also much more flexible now, with people still willing to pay even though the departure dates are not set, which is a good sign, he said.

Due to the pandemic, travelling abroad is also more expensive as it includes screening costs, he added.

Saw said operators are hopeful that China will open its borders soon so that their citizens can travel to Malaysia.

Albert Tan from Tong Yan Travel & Tour said the fair’s success gives them hope that the Malaysia International Travel Mart, to be held in Penang in July, will do well too.

In July, more countries will be reopening their borders, which bodes well for the travel industry, Tan said.

“We decided to hold it in July in light of the school holiday and public holiday, so that we can attract more people.”

For now, operators are only focused on Europe, Turkey, South Korea and Japan.

“For domestic tour packages, foreign tourists need to return, as locals prefer to travel by car.”

Malaysia reopened its border on April 1 after two years. The borders were closed on March 18, 2020, when the government imposed a movement-control order to curb the spread of the virus. – April 17, 2022.

The Eiffel Tower in Paris France, is one of the popular tourist attractions

With borders reopened, Malaysians were ready to travel abroad.

Albert Tan from Tong Yan Travel & Tour

News Source:The Malaysian Insight, 17 April 2022