Tourism minister: Malaysia’s international arrivals set to plunge 75pc from 2019

Kenneth Tee
·4-min read
Local tourists enjoy a cable car ride at the Escape Theme Park in George Town June 16, 2020. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
Local tourists enjoy a cable car ride at the Escape Theme Park in George Town June 16, 2020. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

KUALA LUMPUR, July 15 — The Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture (Motac) revealed today its forecast of a 75-per cent decline in foreign tourist arrivals for 2020, compared to the previous year, due to strict border controls following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Minister Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri (BN-Batang Sadong) also disclosed that the amount of losses faced by the tourism and hospitality sector stood around RM44 billion — RM31 billion from international arrivals and RM13 billion from domestic tourism — as of June 2020.

She was responding to Datuk Ahmad Nazlan Idris (BN-Jerantut) who asked during Question Time in Parliament for the total loss of income in the tourism industry due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to statistics obtained by Motac, foreign tourist spending in the first quarter fell 41.5 per cent year-on-year, going from RM21.4 billion in 2019 to RM12.5 billion in 2020.

The losses were attributed to retrenchments, loss of revenue following mandatory business shutdowns, salary cuts, and cancellation of tourism package bookings.

In a supplementary question, Muhammad Bakthiar Wan Chik (PH-Balik Pulau) then pointed out that Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin had said on July 6 that the overall recovery of the tourism sector would take four years.

The former deputy tourism minister said this contradicted a statement by the United Nation’s World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) stating that the general expectation was for signs of recovery by the final quarter of 2020 but mostly in 2021.

“This will cause hardship in the tourism sector. As we know around three million (people) relied on the sector, it's a very labour intensive industry. This will also affect Malaysia's economy as tourism accounts for 15.2 per cent of the country's GDP.

“The PM’s statement isn’t helping. So are there any measures that Motac has in place to shorten the recovery period?” he asked of the long period of recovery.

The minister explained that the PM’s projection was for a total recovery of the industry.

“We are expecting recovery to begin in the second quarter of next year, but this is just a forecast. We do have many plans to accelerate the recovery,” Nancy replied.

She also explained that many hotels have resumed operations, with occupancy rates of between 75 per cent and 100 per cent, based on data from the Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH).

This led Muhammad Bakhtiar to rise and dispute the statistics on occupancy provided by the minister, which sparked an exchange between the two MPs.

“I think your data is wrong. It cannot be 75 per cent. Average is 35 per cent occupancy rate ” Muhammad Bakhtiar remarked.

The minister replied that the figures were based on submissions to her ministry, which she said was updated weekly.

“Even if the data is wrong, that is the data we received! You're not the one that receives these reports because you are not the minister anymore,” the minister retorted.

Muhammad Bakhtiar seized on Shukri’s earlier remark in which she said the data was from the MAH, which Nancy then said was only one of several sources.

Appearing agitated, she reiterated to Muhammad Bakhtiar that he was not the one receiving daily and weekly reports on the tourism sector.

In another supplementary question later to a related question from Datuk Mahfuz Omar (PH-Pokok Sena) on how the ministry aimed to reassure Malaysians that a particular tourist destination was not a Covid-19 risk, Nancy said this came under the government’s overall recovery strategy.

“We want all tourist destinations in the country, every state to obey the standard operating procedures (SOP). That is why we empower the rakyat to ensure the SOPs are complied with. We are always monitoring and promoting these safe and clean destinations for people to visit.

“That is why we worked together with the tourism industry stakeholders to come up with the SOPs to give assurance to Malaysians in travelling domestically,” she said.

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