Kuala Lumpur May 2 — IN the past 22 years operating China-Malaysia tours, businessman Datuk Keith Li had always looked forward to the Labour Day holiday for this was one of the “golden” times to bring in many Chinese travellers and big profits.

But for this year, there is no anticipation.

The raging coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic engulfing more than 200 countries globally is forcing life, business, as well as tourism to a standstill.

With country lockdowns seen almost everywhere, most people cannot move from one place to another. Without passengers, leading airlines, including AIRASIA BHD, have to halt operations and are screaming for government help.

Hotels, another function of the tourism industry, are bleeding. Many empty hotels have closed their operations temporarily or for good, and workers have been asked to leave or take no pay leave.

Local hotels are estimated to have incurred total revenue loss of more than RM1.5bil since Malaysia imposed the movement control order in March.

In the local travel and tours segment, 30% to 50% of cash-tight travel companies have closed down while the more established ones are struggling, according to Li.

“My inbound tourism business has fallen from near zero in January to zero now. May golden week this year is hopeless for tourism. I have asked all my staff to take no-pay leave until business returns. In-bound tourism might start to recover only in October, ” Li tells StarBizWeek.

“Why October? International tourism is about bilateralism or multi-lateralism. Even if Malaysia is able to lift control soon, other countries may not. This is a global pandemic, not regional, ” the Chinese national explains in a WhatsApp interview.

Due to lingering concerns over safety, most would-be tourists are likely to choose domestic travel and nearby destinations once the pandemic is over.

A recent survey in China, which has wiped out its Covid-19 epidemic in March, showed that more than 90% of respondents would choose domestic tours in their immediate travel plans.

The booking statistics for the May golden holiday provided supporting evidence for the trend, said the survey jointly organised by the China Tourism Academy and Trip.com Group.

The survey report, published in China Youth Daily, was conducted on 15,000 people mostly aged 18 to 45, in nearly 100 cities across mainland China.

Taking cognisance of local tourists’ preference after Covid-19 crisis, China’s travel agencies – in their attempt to stay afloat – have diversified into selling delicacies to live-streaming culture talks that feature history and well-known personalities.

Source: The Starbiz By HO WAH FOON


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