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First to hit last to recover, can the Travel Industry survive?

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an incomparable and unforeseen effect on our lives, economies, communities, and livelihoods around the world, and threats of global recession and major job loss are increasing.

Coronavirus outbreak poses a danger to up to 50 million workers in the world's tourism and travel industries. Travel is expected to slow to one quarter this year, the World Travel and Tourism Council has mentioned Asia to be the most affected continent.

This pandemic has impacted the airlines, hotels, resorts, attractions throughout the world but how bad has it affected Malaysia? Let's break it down! Due to the increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases in Malaysia on 16th March 2020, the government has ordered the Movement Control Order and travel ban which was quite shocking for all of us but we managed to abide by it.

Many of us were also quite surprised when one of the most highlighted campaigned was canceled. Visit Malaysia 2020 was stopped because of this pandemic. The government had no choice but to cancel it because no tourist could come into our country neither we as citizens could leave the country.

At the beginning of February 2020, Tourism Malaysia and Ministry of Tourism Art and Culture (MOTAC) came up with the Tourism Recovery Committee meeting each state in Malaysia to discuss their strategies in light of this pandemic. But eventually, that didn’t help much.

On 19 March 2020, the Immigration Office officially closed down; tourists whose visits expire during the duration of MCO could not obtain a special pass or extend their visas to remain valid in Malaysia. This is the most devastating situation that we are going through now. 

This could be the first time for the travel industry to face this hardship in the industry. Usually, we’ll only hear start-up business are struggling but with this pandemic, even the most successful company has been suffering and they are all “blurred out” on what to do.

On April 3rd, 2020, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) urged the Asia Pacific States to take steps to give their aviation industry financial support. The airline industry in Malaysia faces approximate sales losses of USD 3.32 billion, impacting some 169,700 people in the workforce.

We all are well updated with what is happening in the country. So we all knew that Malaysia Airlines had a cancelation of approximately 63 % while COVID-19 caused Air Asia a cessation of about 70%, and Malindo Air suspended 510 flights. Besides, IATA has reported a loss of US$ 3.79 billion for the possible effect on the Malaysian gross domestic product. That’s a huge number, something that this industry never thought of because these companies are all well established and well-known companies.

I would say that this a chain reaction for hotels and other attraction places to be affected. As the virus was rapidly spreading in, it has led to a revenue loss of over RM40 million when 95,972 rooms were canceled reported  8th February 2020. The number of cancellations gradually increased to 170,085 hotel room with bookings valued from RM68.

 Malaysian Hotel Association (MAH) said they expected the losses doubling as people frightened of traveling by the end of the year as new check-ins are not permitted and only limited service can be provided by the hotels to the in house guest who checked-in before 18 March 2020.

Now how this does has affected the Tour agents? To be honest, they are affected badly. This is because they are the “middle person” now. They are stuck between the customers and the hotels and airlines because all the bookings have been made and out of sudden everything needs to be just canceled.

On 9 March 2020, in a statement, the Chairman of the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) said that the recent spate of cancellations could saddle outbound tour operators with an estimated potential of RM500 million liability accrued by tour package customers from February.

Most travel agents solely depend on their travel company for a living, with this pandemic it has hugely caused a disastrous moment in their lives where they have to take up the blames from the customers.

None of us knows when this pandemic will be wiped out from this earth, therefore we should always be united and be strong to go through this situation. What we need the most at this time is patience. Also, it is highly suggested to all the industry professionals and stakeholders to go digital at this time and hour. People are spending a lot of time browsing and surfing the internet. Make this worth the while. This would help the entire industry altogether. Eventually, the hotels, service providers and airlines to stimulate back their economy.

After one of its most cataclysmic disasters, perspective here will hopefully shape strategy for rehabilitating the travel industry. Stay strong and we can do this together!