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Hoteliers urge govt to lift interstate travel ban soon to revive tourism sector

KUALA LUMPUR: The lifting of Movement Control Order 2.0 (MCO 2.0) in Selangor, Penang, Johor and Kuala Lumpur from this Friday has provided some relief to business operators.

They are hopeful that it is a step forward towards the country’s economic recovery.

The Malaysian Association of Hotels said industry players from the sector were looking forward to better days following the government’s move to replace the MCO with Conditional MCO (CMCO) at the three key states and a federal territory.

Its secretary-general, Christina Toh, said the association was hopeful that the government will lift the ban on interstate travel, which is much needed to fuel the survival of the industry.

“The announcement can be seen as a step forward, with the lifting of full MCO at key states, as well as allowance of interdistrict travel. The sector can look forward to a little bit more room to breathe.

“The announcement is a good sign for now and perhaps by March 18, the situation may improve further, in which case we hope the Health Ministry will consider allowing interstate travel again soon,” she said in a statement.

Tourism sector players, she said, had submitted a proposal to allow interstate travel for attendees and participants of meetings, incentive, convention and exhibition (MICE) or business events during an engagement with the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry, should the government decide to extend travel restrictions.

In contrast to her view, the Malaysia Budget Hotel and Business Association (MyBHA) feels that the MCO status-quo change would not provide the much-needed impact for the hotel sector.

MyBHA deputy president Dr Sri Ganesh Michiel alleged that the government was ignorant to the plea from the players in the sector.

“It is too early to say how changing from MCO to CMCO in these four states would help bolster the hotel sector, especially budget hotel operators.

“This announcement is not a good sign for budget hoteliers, as it does not seem to aid them urgently as needed.

“People want to go on vacation, somewhere far from home, to clear their mind and feel refreshed when they come home.

“Since only interdistrict travel is allowed, there is a high chance that people would do day-trips for a quick ‘getaway’ and go home, instead of staying at hotels nearby,” he said.

Sri Ganesh called for the government to lift the interstate travel ban and instead introduce a strict standard operating procedure (SOP) for people who wish to travel under CMCO.

“I believe this would have a greater impact on the hotel industry, as well as the tourism industry. They should allow interstate travel, with clear and strict SOP for people to obey.

“For example, lift the interstate travel ban between Melaka and Negri Sembilan and allow the people who live in these two states to travel with a strict SOP.

“It will become more difficult for the industry players to sustain their businesses, as well as recover their losses, if the government does not save the hotel industry,” he said.

A similar sentiment was shared by the Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations.

Its president, Datuk Dr Marimuthu Nadason, said the economic sector could not operate seamlessly if the restriction on travel between states was still in place. The government, he said, should start focusing on alleviating economic hardships since the Covid-19 vaccine had arrived in the country in stages.

“The government should immediately lift movement restrictions because they cannot expect the economic sector to operate if they restrict travel.

“It is important to safeguard businesses because they support our workforce and ensure that they can put food on their table.

“Free movement is fundamental for the manufacturing industry, the food supply chain, and many other economic sectors to function seamlessly,” he said.

SME Association of Malaysia president Datuk Michael Kang said a ban on interstate travel needed to be lifted for the country’s economy to fully recover.

“Perhaps the government should allow interstate travel with conditions for people who are required to travel between states to attend business events and for other economic activities.

“This will create a balance between preventing the spread of Covid-19 and helping the economic sector to recover from the challenges brought about by the pandemic,” he said.

Source: New Straits Times

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