Sunday, February 21, 2021

Tourism industry staggers under MCO 2.0

Industry players are losing hope of any recovery in the near future as country and state borders remain closed.

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Putrajaya’s announcement of an extension to the movement control order (MCO) re-implemented in mid-January to address the spread of Covid-19 has compounded the hardships of those in the tourism industry who have been struggling to stay afloat amid hotel shutdowns and job losses from movement restrictions and border closures.

Malaysian Association of Hotels chief Yap Lip Seng said the situation would only worsen with the country’s return to MCO, now extended until Feb 18.

Speaking to MalaysiaNow, he said there were still no signs of the government reopening the borders to allow the entry of foreign tourists.

“We have crossed into February 2021 now without any plans to reopen international borders because we are still under MCO,” he said.

“The tourism industry is losing hope of any recovery in the near future given the lack of tourists, whether foreign or local.”

He said more than 90 hotels across the country had been forced to shut down due to the various instalments of movement restrictions put in place since March last year, when the first MCO was announced.

“The tourism industry is losing hope of any recovery in the near future given the lack of tourists, whether foreign or local.”

“Some shut down completely while others closed temporarily until the situation improves.”

More than 12,000 hotel workers have also been given the pink slip while others have suffered pay cuts or been told to take unpaid leave, he said.

Zuraidah Zuraimi is one of the thousands affected by the collapse of the tourism industry.

She used to work as a chef at a hotel in Genting Highlands, Pahang, one of the country’s biggest tourist hotspots. But when the management could no longer afford to pay its workers, she and 13 others were let go.

Zuraidah has five siblings to support, all of whom are still schooling. She takes care of them at their aunt’s house in Penang as their parents are in Perak.

The family was forced to separate after her father was diagnosed with Covid-19. He is currently undergoing home quarantine.

In order to put food on the table and to continue paying for her sibling’s school fees, the 27-year-old began an online cake business called “Bakery Chef Eyda”.

“After I was let go, I tried looking for another job but until now I have been unable to find anything. That is why I decided to open an online business,” she told MalaysiaNow.

Sharifah Nazirah Syed Zainol Abidin, a public relations manager at a hotel in Selangor, is thankful that she still has her job although she must now adjust to working from home.

But while the management did not sack any of the hotel’s 1,000-plus workers, their salary was cut by 20%.

She told MalaysiaNow the management had launched a monthly online bazaar initiative to help the workers generate more income.

“We can sell any items or food among the staff,” she said. “This has helped us earn more money, up to RM1,800.”

MalaysiaNow’s efforts to reach Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Nancy Shukri for comment have so far failed.

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