Malaysia’s tourism defies economic crisis


KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysia’s travel industry is showing no signs of decline despite the global economic crisis.

Not only is the sector not retrenching, it is continuing to hire more staff. In the capital Kuala Lumpur, at least 20 new players are joining the industry each month.

Malaysia’s tour and travel industry is no stranger to crisis. The sector, which employs over 10 per cent of the country’s workforce, has taken the financial meltdown in its stride.

Mr Mohd Khalid Harun of Malaysia Tour and Travel Association said: “With the experiences they have gone through like SARS, the September 11, the Bali bombings, we are immune to this kind of crisis.”

To generate demand, hoteliers and airlines have come together to roll out value for money packages despite having to sacrifice their margins. Focus has also turned to nearby destinations with domestic travel a hot favourite among consumers with a smaller budget

Mr David Ting, deputy chairman of Mayflower Travel, said: “Customers are kings, they can choose, there are many choices to make obviously, customer satisfaction is key.”

The tough times have also forced many to specialise and alter their way of doing business – customising packages to suit customers’ needs.

Mr Mohd Khalid said at least 20 new players were joining the industry each month despite the downturn. In fact, some are even on a hiring spree.

Mr Ting said his company wanted to be prepared by employing staff before the economy picks up again. “We want to put the right people in place first, so when the good time comes we are ready, we don’t waste time to recruit people,” he said.

Their optimism, they say, is well-founded given Malaysia’s huge working population.

One Malaysian woman traveler said: “I still will travel because sometimes you need a break.”

An Indian woman said: “I don’t think it affect all the parties, I still travel.”

A Chinese woman added: “It doesn’t affect me too, we are retired, we have so much time, so anytime we feel like going we go.”

While the worst is said to be over, the industry is now facing the H1N1 threat. The rapid spread of H1N1 in the country has caused many to steer clear of unnecessary travels.

Mr Mohd Khalid added: “I haven’t seen the worst because this industry is very volatile, there’s the H1N1 pandemic, the financial crisis.”

In short, Malaysia’s tour and travel industry has become so resilient over the years, after having overcome one crisis after another, many have learnt to roll with the punches. While keeping the cost down is important, creativity and innovation, they say, are keys to surviving the crisis.