The nationwide lockdown has forced tourism and hospitality businesses to face the harsh realities of operating in an insecure travel environment in the midst of the pandemic once again.
Many people in the country believe that tighter restrictions are needed to stop the alarming increase in Covid-19 instances. While the lockdown is required, many people fear that the business will not be able to survive without help.
On Monday night, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin launched the Pemerkasa Plus economic stimulus plan, which provided some relief.
Many of the initiatives outlined in the package are welcomed by Malaysian Association of Tour & Travel Agents (Matta) president Datuk Tan Kok Liang.
According to Tan, Pemerkasa Plus will "assist tourism stakeholders, particularly travel agents, stay afloat at this period of turmoil."
The Bus and Taxi Hire Purchase Rehabilitation Scheme is Tan's favourite among the programmes announced. A loan moratorium of up to 12 months and a loan extension of up to 36 months is available to eligible bus and taxi operators under the plan.
“We are thankful that the government has taken the bold decision to intervene on behalf of bus owners as the previous moratoriums did not apply to leasing companies, ” he said.
According to Matta, its members own almost 9,000 "bas persiaran," or tour buses.
Many tour buses were bought through loan and leasing businesses, according to Tan, and a 40-seater tour bus costs between RM490,000 and RM580,000.
“The debt, which is impossible to service given these trying times, has the potential of crippling the tourism ecosystem if not dealt with swiftly and decisively, ” he explained.
Other tourism-related initiatives under Pemerkasa Plus include extension of electricity bill discounts, one-off aid of RM500 to tourist guides and RM1.5bil for the Wage Subsidy Programme.
While an economic stimulus plan gave some assistance, local tourism stakeholders believe vaccination will be necessary in the long run to save the industry.
Matta has written to Khairy Jamaluddin, the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme's coordinating minister, to "speed track the immunisation programme rollout for tourism industry personnel," according to Tan.
“This step is vital if we are to maintain the country's reputation as one of Southeast Asia's premier tourist attractions.
As several other countries have demonstrated, the effectiveness of their immunisation programmes has allowed them to open their borders to international travel, ” he said.
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