In 2019, Malaysia welcomed over 26 million international visitors. It was just four million last year.
Prepare for a rude awakening if it appears that the country's tourism sector has reached rock bottom.
According to a tourism specialist, only 132,000 tourists are expected to visit Malaysia this year.
According to Y.S. Chan, a tourism and transportation industry consultant, countries in the Asia-Pacific region, including Malaysia, have become extremely popular tourist destinations.
“It is therefore only normal that this area will be the hardest hit by the tourism slump,” he said.
According to Tourism Malaysia, 4.3 million foreign tourists visited Malaysia last year, compared to 26 million this year, a decrease of 83.4 percent.
Tourist arrivals are expected to decrease by 96 percent this year compared to last year, according to Chan.
According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization's (UNWTO) world tourism barometer, foreign arrivals in Asia and the Pacific fell by 96 percent in January compared to the same month last year.
According to the UNWTO, global tourism dropped by 87 percent last year compared to 2019, and current trends predict that international tourist arrivals will drop by another 85 percent in the first quarter of this year compared to the same time last year.
As compared to pre-pandemic levels, this will mean a reduction of 260 million foreign arrivals
Two scenarios for this year were also outlined in the UNWTO study.
The first indicates a turnaround in July, with a rise of 66 percent in foreign arrivals.
The second scenario, on the other hand, considers a possible turnaround only in September, resulting in a 22 percent rise in arrivals over last year.
The rate of Covid-19 infections, according to Chan, would eventually determine the industry's recovery.
“In Malaysia, interstate travel will be permitted only if the daily number of new cases does not reach triple digits. In reality, only when the temperature has fallen into the double digits is it safe to travel,” he said.
The UNWTO info, according to Malaysian Association of Hotels chief executive officer Yap Lip Seng, reflects the situation on the ground.
“Within Asia, China was the industry's most important contributor, not only as a source market but also as a common destination. As a result, it accounts for a significant portion of the decrease,” he said.
The underlying issue, according to Yap, is the industry's workers and its livelihood, as tourism is a major contributor to the gross domestic product (GDP) of many countries.
According to Yap, the tourism industry in Malaysia may not rebound to pre-pandemic levels until 2024.
“However, we expect international borders to reopen in phases by 2022, with Malaysia's vaccination program being accelerated to achieve herd immunity by the end of this year,” he said.
Datuk Tan Kok Liang, president of the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents, said a drop in tourism will be anticipated because tourism is such a large contributor to GDP.
“In previous years, it was consistently the third largest contributor, and in 2019, it reached 15.9% (RM240 billion),” he added.
Tourism produced RM89.4 billion in revenue in 2019, compared to RM70 million from palm oil and RM22 billion from rubber gloves.
According to Tan, the tourism industry's future is very unclear because there are so many factors at stake.
Though nearby destinations such as Bali and Phuket are planning to reopen soon, there is no indication that Malaysia will follow suit.”
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