Omicron poses threat to biz but better days loom

This is as better vaccination rate and public’s compliance to the health measures in place


THE surge of Omicron variant is currently dampening the recovery of the tourism and travel industry, but better days are on the horizon on better vaccination rate as well as the public’s compliance to the health measures.

Malaysia Airlines Bhd (MAB) group CEO Captain Izham Ismail said as the airlines play an important role in ensuring connectivity, MAB is also not spared from this Omicron threat.

“As it is for the Delta variant, Omicron to a certain extent creates demand uncertainties, particularly with the reintroduction of strict travel restrictions and requirements, such as new testing rules, border closures and extensive quarantine measures in certain countries,” he told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) recently.

To better respond to Omicron, Izham suggested the travel industry players, including airlines, to joint efforts in restoring the people’s confidence to travel.

In this regard, he calls for all relevant authorities and industry players to simplify and standardise health protocols that will be convenient for travellers, effective for governments and practical for the industry.

“At Malaysia Aviation Group, we remain steadfast in our commitment to upholding the highest safety and hygiene standards in air travel and fully ready to welcome our passengers to fly confidently with us,” he said.

Izham believes the impact of the Omicron variant would probably not be as bad compared to the Delta variant as Malaysia has achieved a high adult vaccine coverage at 99%, adolescent coverage of 91% and population coverage of 80% for the Covid-19 vaccine.

“The indirect impact is that the rapid transmission of the Omicron variant will result in more individuals being infected and more will become close contact,” Izham added.

TMR reported yesterday that the Transport Ministry (MoT) is optimistic that airport passenger volume will grow up to 49 million in 2022 compared to the 11 million recorded last year, depending on the Covid-19 situation.

Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong said bold steps must be taken including vaccinated travel lanes and travel bubbles to more countries to boost tourism and the aviation sector.

“MoT will continue to provide support and render facilitation to enable the air transport network for a post Covid-19 recovery,” he told reporters after the launch of SKS Airways Sdn Bhd on Tuesday.

Malaysian signals optimism for travelling as Shopee’s travel booking platform observed a threefold increase in travel bookings for buses and flights in the first two weeks of January compared to the same period in December 2021.

In particular, an uptick of times was observed for Chinese New Year travel dates from Jan 24 to Feb 2, 2022.

Meanwhile, Ansa Kuala Lumpur hotel manager Low Siew Peng said compared to Delta and the early stage of the pandemic, the public is seen as more aware and accustomed to the safety measures now.

He said the good cooperation among the public has enabled the hotel to run the business as usual and eventually overcome the Omicron threat.

“Regardless of any variant, as long as we continue to practice the personal hygiene, constant sanitisation in the hotel environment, we will be able to prevent and overcome the spreading,” Low told TMR.

“At the hotel, we also conduct routine checking on every guest’s MySejahtera apps upon check-in. For an early inspection, we immediately required the guest to perform a Covid-19 self-test in case of any suspicious symptoms detected,” he said.

While meeting the business demand during the surge, he also emphasised on putting workforce safety as a priority for smooth business continuity.

As a responsible employer, he said the hotel ensures a healthy working environment with all employees being fully vaccinated to serve the customers.

“We are also proud to have employees that are self-disciplined in fighting the pandemic and adhere to the advice of and take their own initiative as advised by the government,” he concluded.

Meanwhile, AirAsia Group Bhd CEO Tan Sri Dr Tony Fernandes said the recovery for the industry will be much faster as anticipated.

“With the high vaccination rate and boosting everyone, I think international travel will bounce back very strongly and I believe we are at the end of the beginning,” he said as quoted in his recent interview with CNBC.

“International border restriction due to Omicron has definitely slowed down the recovery process, but this is still better than last year because we still have a large chunk of flight at least for the domestic traveller.”

“As for AirAsia travellers, the flight demand has been very robust and we also have a cargo demand which is helpful to reduce the cost structure,” said Fernandes, adding that as for the domestic travels, the demand has returned to the pre-Covid level and is gaining a strong momentum.