‘People still want to travel’

More fairs are being held to cater to seasonal demand.

PETALING JAYA: Despite the global economic uncertainty, people are still interested in travelling and tourism, especially during the year-end holidays, say tour agencies, with one travel agency head advising people going on vacation to book their preferred travel packages early.

“A strong travel recovery is happening now,” said Apple Vacations group managing director Datuk Seri Koh Yock Heng (pic).

For those planning their getaways during the year-end holidays, they should not wait for “last-minute deals”.

Apple Vacations group managing director Datuk Seri Koh Yock Heng

“If you are buying any tour packages, the earlier you buy them, the cheaper they will be. Any last-minute decision might cause you to miss out on your ideal package. An early decision will always allow you to get your ideal holiday packages,” he said in an interview.

Koh said more travel fairs are being held this year to cater to the increasing demand for people wanting to go on trips.

A MATTA fair was held in Kuala Lumpur in March, while another is being planned for this September.

There was also a Malaysia International Travel Mart fair in July, followed by many similar fairs in Penang, Ipoh, Seremban, Melaka, Batu Pahat, Johor Baru, Kota Baru, Kuching and other areas, he added.

He said travellers should make the most of the next MATTA fair from Sept 1-3 at the Malaysia International Trade and Exhibition Centre (Mitec) in Kuala Lumpur.

“About 1,800 booths have been taken up by various travel agents, airlines and tourism boards from various countries,” he said, adding that some travellers are cautious in their holiday expenditures.“The middle-income group of travellers is more cautious in spending. That is why they usually prefer regional packages to Vietnam, Thailand, Taiwan, Korea, Japan or China. Regional cruise packages are popular too,” he said.

However, Koh said insufficient flights and other supply chain challenges remain a concern, including a 30% increase in tour package prices and Chinese visa requirements.

As a solution, he said agencies are offering group tours or tours to places that accept visa-on-arrival or chartered flights.

A Kuala Lumpur-based tour agency owner and tour guide who only wanted to be known as John said travellers can expect many choices in travel destinations by December and also Chinese New Year next year.

“People will still travel according to their budget. We have been seeing this trend since the first and second waves of travel after the opening of the country’s borders last year.

“That’s why we have been coming out with different packages to suit everyone’s taste,” he said.

John, whose company has another branch in Melaka, urged travellers to look out for the upcoming travel fairs.

“Make your booking with a licensed tour agency. That way, you are helping the tour agencies and local tourism in their recovery too,” he said.

Hoteliers, on the other hand, said travellers may get less quality service due to the many unresolved issues that have forced them to shrink the scale of their services and operations.

Although travellers continue to go on trips and make room bookings, Malaysian Budget and Business Hotel Association president Dr Sri Ganesh Michiel said hotel operators are not benefitting much from it.

“The prices (of rooms) are so cheap while the cost of operations has gone up. Hoteliers are finding it harder to survive,” he said in an interview, adding that said one reason for the cheap rooms was due to unregulated online travel agencies (OTA).

“The dynamic pricing method behind these OTA is causing room rates to fluctuate, causing a price war. Sometimes it is so low that it doesn’t even cover the overhead costs,” he said.

Sri Ganesh said the association is asking the government to set a ceiling price on the sales commissions of the OTA and regulate short-term residential accommodation to create a healthy and fair business environment.

Published in The Star, 16 Aug 2023