VMY 2020 target to remain despite Covid-19’s impact, says minister

Tourism, Culture and Arts Minister Mohamadin Ketapi (centre) receiving a memento from Pacific Asia Travel Association CEO Mario Hardy in Kota Kinabalu today.

KOTA KINABALU: Tourism, Culture and Arts Minister Mohamadin Ketapi said Malaysia would not be revising its Visit Malaysia 2020 (VMY 2020) target of 30 million tourist arrivals despite the impact from the Covid-19 outbreak.

Fielding questions from local and international media during the Pacific Asia Travel Association (Pata) Adventure and Travel Conference here today, Mohamadin said it was too early to lower the target.

“To keep on adjusting the target may not be proper. For example, we adjust it to 20 million, what if the problem is prolonged, should we, you think, then adjust it to 15 million or 10 million?

“And once the problem is settled, then it goes up to 15 million again. After tourists come back, then should we go back to 30 million?

“This is the kind of things that should not happen – let it be. If we fail, people will know why. If it is for no reason and yet we fail (then) it’s a total failure, it means we cannot do it,” he said.

Yesterday, Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry secretary-general Noor Zari Hamat said the tourism industry had suffered an estimated RM3 billion losses from booking cancellations due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

He said the government’s target of achieving 30 million arrivals during the VMY 2020 campaign could take a hit because of the outbreak.

Pata CEO Mario Hardy concurred with Mohamadin’s remarks, saying the industry could come back stronger after the pandemic subsides.

“You’ll get back your 30 million and probably more but the question is how long,” he said, adding that the question of adjusting arrival targets was also a dilemma in other Asian countries.

He said tourism data during periods following similar outbreaks previously, such as the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and middle east respiratory syndrome (MERS), had shown the industry in the region picked up tremendously.

“If we look at that period and what happened in the past, we are a very resilient industry,” Hardy said.

On average, the industry would need about six months to reach the same growth level it had before, he added.

“What is the tipping point is what everyone is waiting for, that is when the number of cases start to drop, and then we have a better idea how we will recover.

“However, the very interesting thing when you look back at these statistics is that not only are we recovering after such events but we grow even faster and bigger – I can’t really explain the reason for this but as an industry, we come together.

“So I agree with the minister, it is too early to go back and revise your numbers as you would with any businesses,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mohamadin said the government would be coming up with a stimulus package for tourism industry players who had been hit hard by booking cancellations due to the Covid-19.

He said he had been having a series of meetings with the players as well as the finance minister.

“We had a townhall in Sabah yesterday and we will also hold one in Penang, Johor and Selangor. So, I think the assistance to the industry players will be coming soon – don’t know how soon, but soon.”