Visit Malaysia Year 2020 target to remain, says Minister
Published on: Friday, February 14, 2020
By: Neil Chan
KOTA KINABALU: The Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry is maintaining its target of 30 million tourist arrivals for Visit Malaysia Year 2020 (VMY2020) despite the impact from the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak on the sector.
Its Minister Datuk Mohamaddin Ketapi (pic) said it was premature to alter the target now as the full severity of the outbreak has yet to be determined.
“To keep on adjusting the target may not be proper. For example, we adjust it to 20 million, what if the problem is prolonged, should we, you think, then adjust it to 15 million or 10 million?
“And once the problem is settled, then it goes up to 15 million again. After tourists come back, then should we go back to 30 million?
“This is the kind of things that should not happen – let it be. If we fail, people will know why. If it is for no reason and yet we fail (then) it’s a total failure, it means we cannot do it,” he told reporters after launching the Pacific Asia Travel Association (Pata) Adventure Travel Conference and Mart 2020, here, Thursday.
Mohamaddin said the Ministry will look for ways to help tourism industry players who have been affected by the Covid-19 epidemic.
“The Ministry is aware that industry players are currently facing many problems, which cause a drop in their earnings.
“We have held several series of meetings and discussions with the tourism industry players and they told us the many problems they faced, including a drop of up to 30 per cent in bookings for accommodations.
“When the number of visitors drop, their earnings will also drop, resulting in other problems such as loan repayments for industry players who still have bank loans,” he added.
He said there were also many cancellations of tourist groups into the country.
“To date, about 5,000 tourist groups have cancelled their trips to visit Malaysia. We are concerned and take seriously the problems faced by tourism industry players who are losing revenue and profit.”
Mohamaddin said the Ministry will also request banks to allow flexibility in loan repayment until after the problems caused by the Covid-19 epidemic are resolved.
“The tourism industry in Malaysia, as well as throughout the world, has been tested with a big challenge because of the Covid-19 epidemic. So it is everybody’s responsibility to support and help each other,” he said.
Earlier, Mohamaddin said the Visit Malaysia Year 2020 campaign was special as it focused more on eco-tourism, art and culture.
“2020 is a special year for Malaysia as we celebrate the Visit Malaysia Year 2020 (VM2020) campaign. The campaign focuses on eco tourism, arts and culture in accordance with the National Tourism Eco Plan 2016-2025 and the National Cultural Policy.
“We hope that we can take advantage of the Pata Adventure Travel Mart 2020 to highlight activities and travel destinations as the preferred destination in the world,” he said.
On the three-day conference, Mohamaddin said it is attended by 368 participants from 33 countries not just from Asia but also East Europe, including Bulgaria, Poland, Czech Republic and Hungary to discuss the tourism and travel industry.
On Wednesday, Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry Secretary-General Noor Zari Hamat said the tourism industry had suffered estimated RM3 billion losses from booking cancellations due to the Covid-19 epidemic.
He said the Government’s target of achieving 30 million arrivals during the VMY 2020 campaign could take a hit because of the epidemic.
Meanwhile, Pata Chief Executive Officer Mario Hardy said the tourism industry faced a similar problem during SARS and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).
However, he said they were now dealing with the added challenges of social media and the fact that Covid-19 was hitting hardest in China, which was Malaysia’s largest source of tourists.
He went on to say the tourism industry was resilient and will recover.
“You’ll get back your 30 million and probably more but the question is how long,” he said, adding the question of adjusting arrival targets is also a dilemma in other Asian countries besides Malaysia.
On average, he said the industry needs about six months for recovery, to reach the same growth level it had before.
“The tipping point everyone is waiting for, is when the number of cases start to drop, and then we have a better idea how we will recover.