PETALING JAYA, Aug 24: Several key players in the tourism industry have predicted that the shorter year-end school holidays in 2020 and 2021 will be unlikely to affect the industry’s recovery into the new year.

Malaysian Association of Hotels president Mohamad Halim Merican said there were still enough holidays, festivals and long weekends for people to travel domestically, which can help sustain the industry.

He told FMT that the industry’s recovery so far had exceeded expectations, with hotels averaging 33% occupancy rates, 8% higher than the forecast rates for the entire year.

“Since it is currently at 33%, we expect it to touch at least 40% as the year closes. There will not be a full recovery next year, but we hope to be in the mid-50% in terms of occupancy. But this is subject to whether we will run into more issues such as a lockdown or movement restrictions.”

Nigel Wong, secretary-general of the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents, said the shortened school vacation might affect the way Malaysians decide when and where to travel.

He said the industry was expecting a larger influx of travellers over a shorter period. Hotels, tour agencies and tourism operators were gearing up to accommodate them.

“People will start to travel in shorter, more intense bursts rather than the usual long holidays they would take in previous years.

“Another major difference we see is that people may opt to travel closer to home. Rather than flying long distances, they may want to drive to places they can reach,” he said.

With the annual Matta fair coming up, Wong told FMT it was hard to predict their sales as they could only focus on domestic travel due to closed international borders.

He said domestic sales from each Matta fair in previous years would usually amount to over RM30-40 million. However, he said people might still plan ahead and purchase international packages in anticipation of borders possibly opening up next year.

Sim Choo Kheng, founder and CEO of Sim Leisure Group and a key player in the theme park industry, predicted global borders opening as soon as November.

He said the tourism industry should focus on preparing for international visitors since it was overwhelmed by local holiday-goers when interstate travel was first allowed.

“Covid-19 has definitely caught everyone by surprise and has really affected the tourism industry. So the focus is on domestic travel now, but we need to plan for foreign tourists so we can market ourselves well as a wanted travel destination, ” Sim added.


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