“Coronavirus Impact: Air Travel May Return to Normal by 2021 Summer, says Emirates President”
(Photo Courtesy of WeForum)
March 2020, the world as we knew it then came to an abrupt halt. Countries from different continents around the world went into their respective lockdowns, and air travel was effectively stopped altogether. The impact Covid-19 brought was unexpected and harsh. Aviation and hospitality are undeniably two of the hardest hit industries in 2020.
Most airlines make the majority of profits from international air travel. Losing both international and domestic air travel is nothing short but disastrous for any airline company. Less than 75% of capacity (seats) are sold and if this continues in the long run, airline companies can prepare to bid the world goodbye.
Over in Malaysia, Air Asia Bhd, one of the leading low-cost airlines in the world have laid off more than 300 employees in order to sustain their operational costs. Unwillingly, it was a decision top tier management has to make to weather through the storm.
From March to June 2020, this period is an unforgettable nightmare for many hotels, airlines, tour managers and avid travellers.
As signs of recovery gradually emerge, many of us questioned: when can we resume international travel?
The Role of Tourism in Malaysian Economy
Over the past few years, revenue generated from the tourism industry plays an important role in our country’s economic growth. In 2019, there are more than 26,000,000 tourists arriving in our country and their total expenditure costs more than RM86 million (Malaysia’s profit grew 2.4%).
(Statistics from Tourism Malaysia)
As compared to the first quarter of 2020, tourists arrivals to Malaysia recorded a negative growth of -36.8%. The largest plunge came in when MCO occurred in March where arrivals dropped hugely to -71.3%.
Most of our revenue growth comes from 5 main markets. Singapore sits at the top of the list followed by Indonesia, China, Thailand and India. The first two countries that were impacted by Covid-19 were Singapore and China. Hence, it explains why the amount of tourists in Malaysia declined rapidly in February 2020.
If we divide the expenditure based on purpose of visit, at least 75.7% of tourists come to Malaysia for holiday purposes. When March 2020 came, that was when Malaysian government had no choice but to pull brakes on all daily operations by implementing the Movement Control Order (MCO). In addition to this, Tourism Malaysia also postponed their Visit Malaysia 2020 campaign till further notice.
Given the damage caused by Covid-19, will we see signs of recovery for our tourism sector?
Here are some successful examples that Malaysian government has taken to revive international tourism:
(a) Reopening of the Johor- Singapore Causeway Borders
Last month, Dato Seri Hishammudin announced that Malaysia and Singapore will be reopening their borders for people to crossover starting on August 17. For some, the news was tears of joy; for others, it was a concern to be noted off. Applications have already started on August 10. Many are worried about the cases in Singapore despite there is a significant improvement from their second wave in May 2020. Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Economy Department believed that the reopening can help boost Malaysian tourism. We all know that the aviation industry is the most affected field in the world. Hence, many countries are suffering economic loss due to a sharp profit plunge in the tourism sector.
(Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed - Photo courtesy of The Sun Daily)
However, can the reopening of borders really hike up the tourism sector for both countries? Based on the latest resources released by Singapore immigration officials, the crossing permits available (PCA and RGL) are only applicable for official or business purposes.
For those of you who are still puzzled, the Periodic Commuting Agreement (PCA) is geared toward Malaysians who hold valid work passes in Singapore. Those who are under this permit must remain at least 90 days in their work country before they can return home.
On the other hand, those who are under Reciprocal Green Lane (RGL) can only travel for essential business purposes up to 14 days between both countries. All passes must be applied by the company who employs the pass holder.
*Sources from Malaysian government*
*Sources from Singapore government*
With regards to this, Malaysian tourism sector would need to rely on local Malaysians to support domestically. If we can recall the chart attached in the first half of the article, Singaporeans are the ones that contribute the most to Malaysia’s tourism. Yet, how safe we really are? The uncertainty is not giving both parties much confidence in resuming holiday travel plans for now.
(b) Returning Abroad For Studies
Summer has passed and it is time for many Malaysian students to return to their foreign universities to continue their studies abroad. According to Malaysian government, local students who wish to exit the country for study purposes do not need any approval from the department. They only need to show documents relevant to their studies abroad, like an offer letter, student visa, student pass, long-term visit pass and more. However, do Malaysians need to be quarantined abroad for 14 days?
As we know for now, the UK is the country that has declared Malaysia and Brunei as safe countries in their national list. This means that Malaysian students do not need any self-isolation prior to entering UK borders. Despite this, the cases in the UK have not reached below 3 digits. Do stay safe always!
Other than Singapore, Malaysia is currently in the discussion with Australia to arrange the necessary procedures in opening the borders for Australians to enter as tourists. Based on the present situation, I believe we can only make a full comeback in the middle of next year with travel restrictions loosening up between Malaysia and other countries. Now is not the right time to plan a travel abroad experience if you have a place to tick in your bucket list.
Domestic tourism is currently prioritised as the main source of revenue for Malaysian tourism sector. Let’s all support locals for now. If you want some recommendations on where to plan for your next local getaway, here are some useful pointers:
- 15 Waterfalls in Malaysia That Beginners Can Hike
- 17 Breathtaking Retreats in Msia for Your Next Weekend Getaway
- 5 Staycation Spots in Penang You Must Try
- A Travel Blog Dedicated to Connect Travellers to Authentic Malaysian Experiences