The Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry should come up with a plan to save the country's tourism industry instead of burying its head in the sand, said former finance minister Lim Guan Eng.
The DAP secretary-general pointed out that the tourism sector is in a "depressed state" due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and that it would not be able to compensate its losses without a concrete survival plan.
"The tourism industry is the biggest victim of Malaysia’s triple crisis of political instability, economic recession and Covid-19 pandemic.
"Failure to address the triple crisis has contributed to Malaysia suffering the humiliation of being the first Asean country to have our sovereign credit ratings downgraded by Fitch Ratings, the first time since the 1997/98 Asian Financial Crisis.
"And yet the Tourism Ministry continues to adopt an 'ostrich in the sand approach' by predicting that the average hotel occupancy for 2020 will be 61.1 percent and 58.4 percent in 2021," Lim said in a statement today.
He was referring to Fitch Ratings' downgrade of Malaysia’s long-term foreign-currency issuer default rating (IDR) from A- to BBB+ early this month.
The Bagan MP questioned how the ministry can stick to such a projection for this year when the tourism industry is expected to face RM100 billion in losses.
"Such false and unrealistic rosy projections will damage public confidence that the government knows how to do its job to save our tourism industry," he added.
Lim had quoted a statement by Tourism Minister Nancy Shukri recently in stating the expected RM100 billion loss for the sector this year due to Covid-19, which he said had resulted in business closures and job losses in many states that are reliant on tourism.
"This raises some questions as to whether there will be any significant tourism sector left once the pandemic ends."
He also urged the Perikatan Nasional (PN) federal government to do more to help industry players, including tourist guides, tour agencies, express bus operators and hoteliers.
Lim suggested a higher wage subsidy based on percentage to be given to the groups, instead of only RM600 a month.
"Further, there should be an automatic extension of the bank loan moratorium, excluding the Top 20 group, RM500 wage and RM300 hiring incentives every month to create more job opportunities for locals and an additional RM10 billion in financial aid to small and medium enterprises, especially in the tourism industry.
"Without the above-stated urgent financial measures from the PN federal government, how can the tourism sector survive the loss of RM100 billion without any concrete tourism survival plan to compensate for its gargantuan losses?" he said.
The financial grants and loan credits available are also insufficient, he said, adding that the loudest complaint heard from industry players was the difficulty in securing bank loans.