Tourism sector in dire need of moratorium extension to survive

Several tourism firms have appealed for extension on loan moratorium and bank assistance with lenders, but all was futile


TRAVEL and tour industry players are in dire need of a loan moratorium extension for the sector to survive as it is among the worst hit mainly due to the relentless border movement restrictions.

The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) president Datuk Tan Kok Liang said the government needs to urgently assist the industry by extending the loan moratorium for at least another six months.

Tan told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) that the government should give due consideration to the industry’s requests for the extension of the moratorium and staff retention programmes due to public responsibility and moral obligation.

“Our businesses collapsed due to closure of borders. Currently, to mitigate the lack of tourist arrivals, we will be focusing on domestic tourism and company restructuring, as well as to move into agrotourism in the coming years rather than depending on a single source of income.”

Tan said, in an earlier statement issued by Matta, that more travel companies will be forced to shut down and many would end up in bankruptcy.

“This situation will add on to the unemployment and retrenchment of the tourism workforce.

The industry is now in a grievous state and we are in dire need of all the help we can get.” According to the statement, travel agents and tour operators have hardly had any business to date, and probably in the next several months too, resulting in zero income to service the loans for their vehicles and businesses.

Tan said several tourism companies have appealed for the extension on the loan moratorium and bank assistance with the lenders, but all was futile.

“According to the banks, the loan moratorium extension is only accessible on an individual basis and not for companies. Banks are only providing a rescheduling procedure to support businesses and impose a certain interest rate depending on the situation.

“The rescheduling of the loan repayment is not a viable option for many tourism companies.”

With the recent Travel Advisory on Entry Restrictions, more countries have been added to the list including major contributors for inbound arrival into Malaysia.

The sector’s hope for travel bubbles with some of these countries to boost the restart of tourism has now been dashed.

“The industry can expect a further prolongation of the situation and will not be surprised that recovery can only happen in the second quarter of 2021 as mentioned by the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture and was reported in the media recently,” said Tan.

Several associations are rallying together with Matta including the Malaysian Inbound Tourism Association, Bumiputera Travel and Tour Agents Association of Malaysia, Malaysian Chinese Tourism Association, Malaysian Indian Tour & Travel Association, Malaysia Inbound Chinese Association and Persatuan Pengusaha Bas Persiaran Semenanjung Malaysia.

Despite the hardship, Tan told TMR that the country’s domestic tourism would still see some improvement as a result of the extended Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO).

“The RMCO means holidaymakers who (take) frequent overseas trips will be ‘forced’ to travel domestically and will help revive the local industry.

“This is a good opportunity to discover our own ‘backyard’. Corporate travel is a good segment to tap into.”

In a recent Tourism Malaysia report, Malaysia registered 4.25 million tourist arrivals in the first half of 2020 (1H20), marking a decrease of 68.2% compared to the same period in 2019 with 13.3 million.

The tourist expenditure recorded a total of RM12.5 billion in 1H20, a decrease of 69.8% compared to RM41.6 billion previously. Similarly, the per capita expenditure showed a decline of 5.3% from RM3,122 in 2019 to RM2,956 this year.

The top 10 tourist-generating markets were Singapore (1.54 million), Indonesia (702,082), China (401,285), Thailand (348,133), India (153,873), Brunei (135,593), South Korea (118,594), Japan (73,201), Australia (72,103) and the Philippines (64,311).

Negative growth had been observed for tourists from every regional market — namely the short-haul market (-69.1%), medium-haul market (-69%) and long-haul market (-58.8%) from January until June.

In terms of the number of daily visitors to the country, Malaysia recorded a total of 1.71 million arrivals in 1H20, a decrease of 64.2% compared to 4.78 million last year.

The significant drop in the number of tourists and excursionists is attributed to the closure of international borders in response to the spread of Covid-19 virus.

According to the data from the Pacific Asia Travel Association, negative growth in tourist arrivals is not unique to Malaysia, as the neighbouring Asean countries including Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam and Indonesia recorded similar decreases due to the ban on international travel imposed to combat the pandemic in the respective countries.