The Covid-19 pandemic has severely affected the country’s tourism sector. If the view of lobbies and deserted hotel airports is not enough evidence, just take into account official tourism data.
Last week, Tourism Malaysia reported that tourist arrivals in the country fell by 83.4% in 2020 and the country only received about four million tourists.
It was a significant decrease compared to the 26,100,784 arrivals of tourists registered in 2019.
“The massive drop in international tourist arrivals is attributed to the closure of Malaysia’s borders since March 18 last year due to the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic,” Tourism Malaysia said in a statement .
But not everything is a disgrace, at least not in the eyes of Tourism Malaysia CEO Zulkifly Md Said.
According to him, the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of domestic tourism.
“National tourism has always been the savior of the industry whenever the country was in crisis. International tourism would stop during a crisis, but domestic tourism would continue and provide income to the country, ”he said recently during the launch of the international travel fair ITB Berlin.
According to Zulkifly, Malaysia has a lot of attractions that locals can discover or rediscover. It’s also time to take a holiday in your own country, as tour operators have introduced attractive deals to attract more people.
Zulkifly has observed hotels and airlines offering deals and packages to domestic tourists.
“I’m sure there will be more fantastic packages for our people to move forward,” he said.
Zulkifly’s views on the importance of domestic tourism have also resonated with other stakeholders.
Datuk Tan Kok Liang, president of the Malaysian Association of Travel Agents and Travel Agents (Matta), reported that domestic tourism will be the main contributor to the country’s tourism industry this year.
Tourists in your home
Tourist activities are currently allowed in the areas under the conditional order control and recovery phases.
Permitted activities include public and tourist attractions such as zoos, cultural heritage sites, museums, farms, aquariums, education centers, amusement parks, theme parks, extreme outlets and nature parks.
More recently, the National Security Council announced that interstate travel between areas under the recovery MCO is allowed, but strictly only for tourist activities.
And, with the lifting of the inter-district ban, many Malaysians have devoted themselves to relaxing in tourist activities to explore their own garden.
It was recently reported that many Penangites have visited Penang Hill, which has just reopened to the public. Interviewees for The Star said they needed some outdoor fun and fresh air.
Bank Secretary Syikin Tajul, who lives in Penang, welcomed the freedom to travel again.
“Since the MCO, we haven’t been here and it looks like we’ve had fresh air for years. When we learned that train services were starting again, we had to get on board,” he said.
Syikin added that he observed strict sanitary measures to maintain safety while traveling.
“As long as we wear masks and disinfect regularly, it shouldn’t be a problem,” he said.
The volatility of the MCO, however, changed the way Malaysians plan their holidays.
Agoda’s digital travel booking platform reported that Malaysian travelers are among the top three in the region in spontaneous and last-minute travel during these uncertain times.
Meanwhile, Airbnb CEO (India, Southeast Asia, Hong Kong and Taiwan), Amanpreet Bajaj, said Malaysians are adapting to the different phases of the MCO.
“When they can, they choose to make quick and short getaways with their families. A clean and safe journey is their top priority, “he said in a statement.
New path to follow
A year after the pandemic stopped tourism, stakeholders have accelerated digital adoption to remain competitive.
Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri said virtualization would be key to reviving the sector.
“Now, more than ever, digitalization is revolutionizing the tourism industry and global travel experiences, and with today’s advanced technology, smart collaborations and partnerships are the way forward,” he said during the launch of ITB Berlin.
According to Nancy, tourism companies are learning to take advantage of digital platforms.
In fact, intensifying the digitalisation of the tourism sector was one of the main strategies of the National Tourism Policy 2020-2030.
Local airlines and airports have also accelerated digital adoption amid the pandemic.
Physical travel documents can soon be passed to passengers at KL International Airport.
The airport plans to introduce facial recognition technology during the first half of this year. This initiative will replace boarding passes with faster and more secure passenger authentication.
AirAsia Group CEO Tan Sri Tony Fernandes said in a statement that the airline has also launched some digital initiatives.
These innovative technologies will make travel safer and smoother after the Covid-19.