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Tourism players want hiring process for foreign workers simplified

They welcome the National Recovery Council's call for the facilitation of such applications to help them remain in business.

Nur Hasliza Mohd Salleh
2 minute read
A worker waters a row of plants outside a hotel in Melaka during the time of movement restrictions and border closures in January last year.
A worker waters a row of plants outside a hotel in Melaka during the time of movement restrictions and border closures in January last year.

At his hotel in Sepang, Selangor, Engku Azman is hard at work, taking care of guests. 

Two years ago, when movement restrictions were enforced to curb the spread of Covid-19, his hotel was quiet and empty. 

Today, though, it is bustling with activity.

Looking back at the movement control order (MCO) period, Azman said he never imagined that his small hotel business which he began after retiring from the health ministry in January 2020 would end up going through such an ordeal. 

Within a span of mere months, business had ground to a halt. 

What saved his hotel from going over the brink was the special Prihatin grant given by the government to hotel operators like himself. 

But while the guests have begun to return, challenges remain, especially in hiring enough workers to keep things going. 

At the moment, he is taking care of everything himself together with his son. During peak periods, he tries to find part-time workers and asks his relatives for help. 

"If we offered high salaries, maybe a lot of people would want to work," he said. 

"But we are only a small business. We have tried to get full-time workers at appropriate salary levels, but it's hard." 

Azman agrees with the calls by the National Recovery Council (MPN) for the government to speed up and facilitate the application process for foreign workers, especially in critical sectors such as agriculture, tourism and manufacturing. 

MPN chairman Muhyiddin Yassin had previously warned that a shortage of labour would stunt the recovery process for the sectors most affected by the pandemic. 

The council has also repeatedly urged the government to accelerate recovery efforts for the tourism sector, and to come up with initiatives and aid to jump-start the industry which had been among the biggest contributors to Malaysia's GDP pre-pandemic. 

Azman had hoped to slowly develop his hotel business by adding to the number of rooms. 

At the moment, though, it is beyond his ability to do so. 

The Selangor Travel and Tourism Agency Association said the hospitality sector was struggling to find workers as locals were not interested in tourism-related jobs. 

Its president Fathir Badri Al Hadad said the labour shortage continued to be a major crisis despite the recovery in domestic and international tourism experienced so far. 

He, too, said the government should work to resolve this issue by allowing applications by foreign workers. 

He added that MPN's call for initiatives and aid would allow Malaysia to compete with neighbouring countries like Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand. 

"When the tourism sector recovers, the economy will be better," he said. 

"The government needs to realise this. When it realises how much this sector contributes, I'm sure that help will begin in earnest."