The pandemic brought a year of challenges for the tourism sector, but it has not dented the spirits of many in Malaysia's travel and hospitality sectors.
Travel agents continue to use the current downtime to prepare for eventual recovery or engaged in initiatives that benefit the community.
Nigel Wong, honorary secretary general at Malaysian Association of Tour & Travel Agents (MATTA), said the association is helping members to adapt to new ways of conducting business while providing field audits to meet health and safety protocols in the new normal.
“MATTA has been working with several digital providers to provide training and infrastructure for members. We have collaborated with Facebook to train travel agencies to provide them with a better understanding of online marketing on social media," he said, adding that more emphasis would also be given to the use of digital payment.
Travel agencies such as Sri Sutra Travel is making headways in its digital adoption. Having cut operating expenditure and manpower to the minimum, managing director and CEO Syed Mohd Razif is now developing end-to-end digital travel solutions in preparation for post-pandemic demand.
Hwajing Travel & Tours' MD Kenny Cheong, meanwhile, has suspended all business activities while focusing the company's efforts on lending a hand to Malaysia's fight against the pandemic.
Cheong said that all his staff have registered for their vaccinations and they are doing their part to encourage others to do so — including updating its social media page with the latest factual information. “We’re even prepared to offer our offices for vaccinations," he added.
Malaysia Airports has been handing out care packages to communities located near their airports. Here, aid is being sent to Marudi via a ferry. Photo Credit: Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad
Actively involved in the vaccination movement too is the Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH), which has sourced and put forth hotels which can be vaccination venues or quarantine and treatment centres for low-risk or asymptomatic Covid-19 patients to lessen the burden on public healthcare.
The Malaysian hotel industry, like its counterparts elsewhere, had pivoted to "unconventional revenue models" that include converting space in hotels for people to work, providing housekeeping services for homes and even selling food on the streets, said Yap Lip Seng, CEO of MAH.
Such moves are not profit oriented but are aimed at keeping people employed and keeping the hotel operational despite sustaining losses, he shared. The association has also partnered up with the government HR agencies to offer re-skilling training for industry members.
MAH has also collaborated with Tourism Malaysia and online selling platform, Shopee, to sell future stays at heavily discounted rates subsidised by the government.
Others like Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad (MAHB) have set aside RM400,400 (US$97,000) for a nationwide campaign together with a government-linked companies to set up a disaster response network task force, which distributes care packages containing basic necessities — such as rice, wheat flour, cooking oil, sugar, milk, dry goods and masks — to the lower income groups.
So far, 1,400 households in five locations near MAHB airports have received the aid, including a recent distribution on 28 May to 330 households in Miri and Marudi, Sarawak.