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Tourism Bubbles in Malaysia?

Malaysia Tourism Travel Bubble

Have you been following the Tourism Malaysia news recently? Or perhaps since the start of the Covid 19 pandemic? Maybe even how the tourism industry expects to work on tourism bubbles in Malaysia?

Over the last year, from 2020 to 2021, all we have been hearing is whining and crying from various tourism industries ranging from the ministry of tourism right to the homestay operators. 

Even associations like MATTA, MAH, MBA, and others have also tried to show that they also have a voice in helping the industry. The list goes on, and I will not get into that area as today's topic revolves around Malaysia's amazing tourism bubble.

Don't get me wrong, and it is not that I am taking the opportunity to hit out at people, but someone has to say something, and I guess it is time I voiced out what I think. Again, these are only my personal opinions and not intended to hurt anyone in particular.

Tourism Bubbles in Malaysia?

I find it amazing how people can pluck stuff out of thin air and just say things that makes the industry cringe. Yes, if you are in this industry, you will know who's cringing and who's waiting with open arms for just about anything to fall into their hands.

Personally, this pandemic has sort of culled out the weak and make everyone wake up, but has anyone actually woken up? Or are they just whining as usual? You know who I'm talking about here.

Malaysia Tourism Travel Bubbles
Are tourism bubbles going to work for Malaysia?

And about the tourism monetary aid to certain quarters? Don't let me get started on that because you already know how much money is wasted in providing one-off help. Might as well spend the money on something more realistic.

You may be asking who I am to be passing judgment or commenting about this, and let me say that I have been writing and promoting tourism in Malaysia since 2008. I have had my fair share of talks and discussions with multiple tourism industry people, including the wonderful people in Tourism Malaysia.

I have also been speaking at seminars and talks about digital tourism since the heydays from 2010 to 2014. Back then, nobody understood what social media was until Instagram and Influencers came around in 2016.

But after the Covid 19 pandemic hit Malaysia and the world, we started to see all sorts of everything being shared and discussed. Travel or tourism bubbles were one of them, which you and I know will not materialize to benefit the industry.

The word "Travel Bubble" sounds so fascinating that it was used worldwide, and one of the first to plan it was New Zealand and Australia back in 2020. Until today, they are still discussing the travel bubble as every week, Covid 19 just changes things.

So, the only possible way a travel bubble will work is domestically in Malaysia, and this too depends on each state and how the Covid 19 cases turn out.

Tourism Bubble Melaka
Melaka would be a great candidate for any tourism bubble.

Travel Bubble in Malaysia Example

For example, the government can plan for a Selangor and Melaka travel bubble, but if Covid 19 cases in Selangor keep rising, Melaka will not accept Selangorians with open arms. They will close the borders immediately.

And the same thing works the other way around too. Plus, what if the virus mutates with more asymptomatic cases going undetected with a sudden major cluster or outbreak happens? How doe this travel bubble work? Immediately, things will lockdown, so all the effort put into the bubble is for nothing.

My point here is that all that planning to create travel bubbles in Malaysia or with other countries is just a waste of time. I believe the resources planned for this would be better off kept for a later day when the government vaccinates at least 80% of the population.

Maybe the resources or planning could be spent on marketing for 2022 or 2023? Why does the government want to rush to save some crying travel agent or hotel when they can just focus on the larger picture.

Tourism Bubbles

Tourism Bubbles in Malaysia News

Below are various articles discussing and highlighting the possibilities or steps to achieve the 'so-called' tourism bubbles that will save the industry.

If you read through them, you can see how much time and resources has been wasted in meetings, planning, discussing and so on.

I believe the Malaysian government or Tourism Malaysia could have just done a future plan for 2022 or 2023 by waiting for the population to be at least 70% vaccinated.

Just take a look at some of the news articles below, and these are just from one week of tourism news in Malaysia. Again, remember the keywords used here - "Can", "May", and others to make it sound good.


Wednesday, 10 Mar 2021

Targeted travel bubble can help revive tourism sector in stages

 

MELAKA, March 10 — Interstate travel for tourism between states placed under the recovery movement control order (RMCO) under the targeted travel bubble programme is expected to restore the tourism sector in stages.

 

The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) Melaka chapter chairman Goh Hock Gin said he believed the move could prevent the spread of the Covid-19 outbreak among tourists.

 

Goh said it was a good start and could control tourists’ movement and help in tracing them if there was an outbreak of the Covid-19 infection among the tourists.

 

“It is a much-anticipated decision by tourism industry players in Melaka.  Even though the move is seen as only benefitting travel agents but at least there are efforts made to help revive the tourism sector in stages,” he said when contacted by Bernama here today.

 

He said industry players and tourists should adhere to the requirements set to prevent the emergence of a new cluster, the tourism cluster, which could lead to the implementation of the third movement control order (MCO).

 

Goh said those from the states under the RMCO who wish to visit Melaka could use the services of 80 travel agents under MATTA registered with the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture (MOTAC).

 

Meanwhile, Melaka Tourism Association president Madelina W.L Kuah said the requirements imposed on these tourists were quite burdensome and costly as they would have to use the services of travel agents, adding that movement was also quite restricted compared to if they were allowed to use their own vehicles.

 

Yesterday, Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said interstate travel for tourism between states placed under the RMCO would be allowed starting today subject to strict standard operating procedures (SOP) including having to go through travel agencies registered under Motac.

 

Seven states namely Melaka, Pahang, Terengganu, Sabah, Putrajaya, Labuan and Perlis are placed under the RMCO from March 2 until March 15, while Langkawi was today declared as an RMCO zone, even though Kedah is still placed under the CMCO. — Bernama

 

March 10, 2021

Take advantage of bubble to boost domestic tourism, says minister

Bernama

 

KUALA LUMPUR (March 10): The Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture (MOTAC) wants Malaysians and local tourism companies to take advantage of the Targeted Tourism Bubble opportunity to boost domestic tourism.

 

Minister Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri said the "bubble", which allows travel for tourism between states that come under the recovery movement control order (RMCO) from today, would indirectly open up space and opportunities for businesses in the sector to return to full operations.

 

"Certainly, this can be the beginning of a new chapter as a catalyst for the industry to rise again, further helping the survival of workers involved in the tourism sector chain," she said in a statement today.

 

Nancy said MOTAC is also grateful to the government for allowing direct activities for the creative industry in RMCO and conditional MCO (CMCO) zones.

 

The activities include official government programmes, television, music, arts, dance, theatre, musical, comedy, cultural and heritage performances involving attendance of 50% of the audience with strict adherence to Covid-19 prevention standard operating procedures (SOPs).

 

Nancy also reminded the public not to be complacent and adhere to the SOPs set when participating in tourism and cultural activities.

 

"Let us work together and continue to pray that the local tourism and culture industry does not have to go through difficult times with the closure of activities because the negative impact on the economic chain of those involved and the country is very deep," she said.

 

Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob in a press conference yesterday announced the bubble and allowing music, arts and cultural activities subject to strict SOPs. As for the bubble, one of the conditions is that tourists must utilise a tour agency registered under MOTAC. Use of private vehicles is not allowed.

 

10 MAR 2021

Targeted travel bubble provides a breather for tourism industry: MAH

 

KUALA LUMPUR: The targeted travel bubble programme, which commenced today, is the first step to revive the country’s tourism industry and breathe new life into the hotel sector.

 

Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) vice-president Lim Choong Sean said although there were strict standard operating procedures (SOPs) that needed to be complied with, the permission for interstate tourism activities for states placed under the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO) was viewed as a small but very positive step for the hospitality industry.

 

“The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is huge on the hotel sector. We found that for every two weeks of Movement Control Order (MCO) implementation, the hotel industry suffered a revenue loss of more than RM300 million.

 

“Hence, this programme is very positive step indeed,” he said when appearing as a guest on the ‘Malaysia Petang Ini’ programme produced by Bernama TV here today.

 

He explained that people should not be afraid to stay in hotels under MAH as they have been audited and only given certificates of recognition after complying with the maximum SOPs to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. He also urged Malaysians in the RMCO areas to support the government’s initiative to boost the country’s tourism industry.

 

Yesterday, Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced permission for interstate tourism activities between states placed under RMCO, under the targeted travel bubble programme.

 

Thus far, seven states, namely, Melaka, Pahang, Terengganu, Sabah, Putrajaya, Labuan and Perlis are placed under the RMCO from March 2 to 15. Langkawi Island has also been declared as a RMCO zone. — Bernama 

 

Wednesday, March 10th, 2021

More Asian travel bubbles after Indonesia

by RAHIMI YUNUS

 

MALAYSIA is in the process of establishing travel bubbles with several other Asian countries, including Singapore, Brunei, China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan, while the discussions with Indonesia for the same purpose are ongoing.

 

Tourism Malaysia DG Zulkifly Md Said said the government plans to attract essential and leisure travellers into the country via the travel bubbles to revitalise the tourism and culture industry as the country recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic.

 

“Apart from Indonesia, we are hoping for a travel bubble with Singapore, which is connected to Malaysia via all modes of transport, including road, air and sea.

 

“Brunei is also another country that we look at. Besides that, we have China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan in the pipeline subject to an ongoing discussion with the countries’ authorities,” Zulkifly said after the opening of ITB (Internationale Tourismus-Borse) Berlin NOW 2021 (Malaysia Chapter) in Kuala Lumpur yesterday, officiated by Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri.

 

Zulkifly said Malaysia is still in talks with Indonesia on the Reciprocal Green Lane/Travel Corridor arrangement covering the types of travel to be allowed and the particular destinations to be chosen for the programme.

 

He, however, said it is beyond Tourism Malaysia’s jurisdictions to be able to tell when will the negotiations be concluded. “Certain timeframes would allow us to plan, but it is beyond our authority. The urgency is not only with us, but with the countries we are talking to. Any changes can happen as time goes by that may jeopardise all these ongoing talks like what happened between Singapore and Hong Kong previously,” Zulkifly added.

 

As for the Covid-19 vaccine passport, he said a valid document that is recognised by governments is needed and it must not be easily forged to ensure the safety of travel and its holders.

 

Nancy said in her speech earlier that the government would issue Covid-19 vaccine passports for those who have been vaccinated, similar to the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) initiative to launch the IATA Travel Pass, a global and standardised digital passport that will allow people to travel once again and serve as a solution to the aviation sector.

 

Malaysia recently launched National Tourism Policy 2020-2030, aimed at ensuring the continuity of the country’s tourism industry and bringing back Malaysia as the preferred tourism destination at the global level among the “Top of the Mind Ecotourism Destinations of the World”.

 

Nancy said among the strategies include the creation of Special Tourism Investment Zones, intensifying digitalisation of the tourism sector, enriching tourists’ experience and satisfaction, and strengthening the country’s commitment to sustainable tourism.

 

She said the tourism industry is now focusing on maximising existing resources through ecotourism, rural and experiential tourism, enhancing niche products and expanding more personalised travel packages.

 

Malaysia’s international tourist arrivals plummeted to 4.33 miliion in 2020 compared to 26.1 million international tourist arrivals in 2019, giving a negative growth of 83.4% year-on-year. Tourist receipts plunged by 85.3% to RM12.67 billion in 2020 from RM86.1 billion a year ago, with the average per capita expenditure recording a total of RM2,928.40, a decline of 11.3% from RM3,300.40 in 2019.

 

The global tourism sector experienced a 74% decline in international arrivals in 2020, while Asia Pacific suffered an 84% decrease, according to the World Tourism Organisation.

 

Malaysia participates in the ITB Berlin NOW 2021 for the 48th time this year with 30 Malaysian organisations consisting of 10 tour operators, 10 hotels and resorts, seven state tourism boards and three tourism associations. ITB Berlin, the world’s largest tourism trade fair, is going fully virtual this year from yesterday until March 12.

 

Malaysia is taking full advantage of the virtual experience by having a “virtual cafe” called Malaysia Truly Asia CafĂ© Corner that will highlight Malaysia’s niche products, such as specialised scuba diving for the disabled, birdwatching and medical tourism.


Travel Bubble for Malaysia
Travel bubbles may not see the light of day.


Conclusion


At the end of the day, many tourism industry players will just have coffee shop talks, complaints, whines and discussions, and that will be it. I listen to some of them and feel their frustrations.


The big players are suffering equally hard as the small players, but the tourism grants and aides seem to target small and medium players.


That RM3,000 one-off grant to tourism agencies will not cover one large companies salesperson pay; therefore, which tour agency size will benefit from this? The small one-man show or three-person tour company, maybe?


So you see, sometimes when the government plans these kinds of grants and help, I really wonder who is suggesting these ideas and where they pluck these numbers from. I leave the ball in your court to figure this out.

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