PETALING JAYA: Malaysia is ranked second in Asia’s travel readiness index for having the most favourable conditions for tourism recovery, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).
The Asia’s travel readiness index ranked 28 Asian countries based on the importance of tourism in their economy, local vaccination coverage, ease of travel and the convenience of returning home.
A lower score indicates more favourable conditions.
Malaysia scored 2.15, with the index showing the country having favourable conditions in terms of local vaccination coverage and ease of travel.
Fiji topped the list with 1.95, while Sri Lanka had a score similar as Malaysia at 2.15.
Singapore was ranked fifth with 2.45.
Fully-vaccinated visitors and Malaysians now no longer have to quarantine upon arrival but are required to undergo an RT-PCR test two days before departure and a professional rapid test (RTK-Antigen) within 24 hours of arrival.
Countries such as the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam received lower scores due to their vaccination coverage and quarantine policies for returning citizens.
EIU – a research division of the firm which publishes The Economist magazine – believes that a full tourism recovery in Asia is only likely in 2024 when Chinese tourists resume international travel and confidence in travel is restored.
Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) president Datuk Tan Kok Liang said health and safety concerns were the most important factors in attracting more tourists to the country.
He said to instil confidence, travel agents and the government need to ensure travellers are provided with the latest information on travel requirements.
He added that with the easing of travel restrictions, it is estimated that tourist arrivals to the country may reach five million this year or 20% of pre-pandemic levels, with major tourists expected from Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines and other Asean countries.
“If the conflict between Russia and Ukraine subsides, I believe long-haul tourists will come in.
“China’s travel at the moment is closed, while South Korea should be opening up in the second quarter of 2022,” he said, adding that the forecast is dependent on the current containment of Covid-19 and the emergence of possible new Covid-19 variants.
He said MATTA is also embarking on several road shows and engaging online platforms to promote tourism in the country, while building up the industry’s skilled workforce that has been affected by economic closures.
Malaysian Hotels Association chief executive officer Yap Lip Seng said hotels have yet to receive a significant increase in bookings since the country began its transition to the endemic phase on April 1, partly due to the late release of the finalised standard operating procedure (SOP) from the government and the fasting month of Ramadan.
He said prior to April 1, average occupancy rates were between 30% and 40%, which fluctuated between peak weekends or holidays and normal weekdays, as well as with popular domestic destinations faring better than others.
He added most arrivals were Singaporeans and some Indonesians.
“The reopening could go both ways, especially during the initial implementation period.
“Instead of getting more arrivals, we could see more Malaysians opting to travel overseas,” he said.
Yap added that there would be a minimal increase in tourist arrivals for the first month as travellers are uncertain of travel requirements.
However, he said the hotel industry targets an average occupancy rate between 50% and 60% by the third quarter of 2022.
“As seen with other countries that have reopened their borders, arrivals are expected to increase over the next quarter,” he added.
He also said marketing and awareness of requirements and the SOP for travellers need to be facilitated in all target countries to ensure a smooth process of pre-travel needs.
“The same needs have to be managed at entry points to ensure hassle-free travel for incoming tourists,” he added.
Yap said the travel industry has also initiated Travel Safe Alliance Malaysia (TSAM), a collaborative initiative of safe travel certification for hotels, travel and tour operators, airlines and business events services.
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