KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 20 — The impact of the COVID-19 outbreak has resulted in the cancellation of over 157,000 hotel room bookings — a loss of RM66 million in terms of revenue as of Feb 17, according to the Malaysia Association of Hotels (MAH).
Its president, Kamaruddin Baharin said although the cancellations were mainly from the China market, there were also reports of cancellations from the domestic market, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Vietnam and Europe, while South Korean cancellations increased after its government issued an advisory against travels to Malaysia.
“This spate of cancellations is expected to continue up to March, but we believe there will be more coming (cancellations). There are also a couple of groups that have cancelled (bookings) for April.
“Also, a lot of international events, especially MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions) have been greatly affected. There are some that cannot be cancelled but in view of the current situation, many foreign participants and delegates have cancelled their bookings,” he said.
He said this at a joint press conference between MAH and the Malaysian Association of Tour And Travel Agents (MATTA) on the MATTA Fair Cuti-Cuti Malaysia here today.
Also present was MATTA secretary-general Nigel Wong.
To mitigate the losses due the cancellations, Kamaruddin said, the association held a meeting with tourism stakeholders at the Finance Ministry on Feb 10 to discuss a stimulus package to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The proposals include for the government to lower the energy cost for hoteliers and reduce the tourism tax, especially for foreigners, from RM10 per room per night to RM1.
“The electricity tariff for hotels is charged under commercial tariff rather than industry tariff. So we are paying a very high tariff, which is the second highest cost for hotels besides the payroll.
“We have (also) requested for the tourism tax to be abolished, but it cannot be done because it is governed by an Act of Parliament. Therefore, the ministry can only reduce the tourism tax but not abolish it,” he added.
The economic stimulus package is scheduled to be announced by the Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad on Feb 27.