What We Learned in 2020 for the Tourism Industry

(Source: 1Utama)

In response to the spread of Covid-19 pandemic, the Malaysian government has introduced SOPs that are compulsory for the public to adhere to including the wearing of masks, temperature screening and QR code scanning to enable contact tracing.

Granted, Year 2020 brought with it so many surprises we did not expect. Anticipations and hopes ran high as we launched Visit Malaysia Year 2020 early this year, only to be rudely interrupted by a silent and invisible enemy. The pandemic finally found a name, “Covid-19”, taking with it many lives as it spread across countries. 

Although this was shocking, the world had seen something similar just about a decade ago in the form of SARS and H1N1, where new vaccines had to be developed before we could live and move freely again. Despite vast improvements in the technology we have in this day and age, especially in our healthcare and medical fields, we have to confront with something unknown, which also has the possibility of evolving. As with the effects we experienced years back, the pattern remained the same: the tourism industry had been the first affected, and the last to recover.

In the blink of an eye, we have been battling the virus for nearly a year. A year that we envisioned to be a monumental year for Malaysia for its tourism industry, where we aimed to usher in 30 million international arrivals, estimated to bring worth of RM100 billion in tourist expenditure. As we were forced to close our international borders, we had to resign to the fates that Year 2020 did bring with it many changes, just not in the way that we expected. 

However, in every cloud there is a silver lining. We were presented with many challenges, but not without opportunities to improve and adapt. As we countdown to the end of what has been a rollercoaster ride of a year, let us recapitulate the silver lining or simply what we have learned this year.

Importance of adapting and staying resilient by capitalising online platforms

Some of the words that have become viral and common this year include “Work From Home”, video conferences from home and anything online. Teachers have been asked to conduct online classes, students have been expected to use online materials to study and interact with their peers. The same goes to those in the tourism sector. 

As we come to terms that actual travelling is no longer feasible in the foreseeable future, we have been introduced to and made familiar with virtual tours. ‘Travelling’ virtually from Malacca to Perlis takes no longer than an hour and is possible within our own comfort and safety from our homes through computer screens. Recently, Malaysia had successfully hosted the APEC 2020 Leaders’s Meeting virtually for the first time, paving the way for digital transformation in the country. Although online and virtual platforms are nothing new, the pandemic certainly accelerated its dominance and industry players have had to jump on the bandwagon to market their products online not only to reach to a wider audience quickly, but also as it limits physical interaction and reduces risk of infection, it is now the safest way to conduct businesses.

Smart partnerships with other industry players in the tourism ecosystem

Due to the closure of international borders, we have seen a great shift in placing heavier focus on domestic tourism. The domestic tourism sector has always been significant, contributing billions of ringgit to the national economy each year, generating RM92.6 billion of tourism expenditure to the economy in year 2019 alone. Now that many countries have placed restrictions on inbound tourists, domestic sector remains the only sector that may help local entrepreneurs sustain their businesses.

One of the ways to entice local tourists is for industry players to form smart partnerships. Good synergy between various agencies is important as it provides an avenue for different parties to collaborate and bring something new to the table, such as providing complementary offers to introduce attractive and wholesome holiday packages. For example, hoteliers and airline companies have worked together to offer flight tickets and accommodation packages at a cheaper price compared to purchasing them separately to induce demand from the domestic market. 

It is heartening to see industry players being proactive in introducing initiatives to make travellers feel safe. One such example is the Clean & Safe Malaysia label introduced by the Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH). The certification is the first industry-wide hygiene and safety label in Malaysia, to ensure hotels and resorts comply with the SOPs which offer peace of mind for travellers staying in the hotels. Another innovative way that the industry had come up with to revive our domestic tourism is the “Work From Hotel” campaign which has been viral on social media lately. Playing on the popular term in 2020 “Work From Home”, it is a perfect example of marketing your product by accommodating to current events and interests of the public.

Effective communications in a timely manner

Knowledge is power and in this uncertain time, it is crucial to ensure that consumers or the public are updated on the latest news on the industry. Due to the restrictions in movement and movement control order issued by the government, many people find themselves glued to the screens of the TV or their digital devices, awaiting news from the Ministry of Health on the current situation of Covid-19 in the country or the latest updates on the restrictions or SOPs. 

Clear and effective communications are the key to maintaining social order to relay important messages. Many agencies from the public or private sectors have been relying more on digital assets and social media platforms not only on traditional media but other channels like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

At Tourism Malaysia, we strive to provide fresh information and news to ensure all related parties including the tourism fraternity and the public are consistently informed on any updates the moment they are available by utilising our online channels. We encourage you to check our official website and social media platforms to keep abreast with the developments within the industry.

How to travel responsibly

Though the idea of travelling might seem foreign considering the current situation, we believe that it is better to equip ourselves with good practices in advance, once we develop vaccines that can counter the spread of the virus and hopefully enable us to move freely again in future.

Let us play our part as responsible citizens of the world by adopting the new norms in travelling and making them a part of our new routine.

1. Always put on a mask when in public

Beginning August 1, the government has made it compulsory to put on a mask whenever you are in public. By now, donning a mask should already be a part of our outfit routine whenever we leave the house. Bring a few with you in case you need to change them along the way.

2. Wash hands with soap often

Make sure you wash your hands frequently especially after touching objects or materials when you are outside. The Ministry of Health recommends washing hands thoroughly with soap often as a way to reduce the risk of transmission.  

3. Carry a hand sanitiser 

The best is to wash your hands with soap but hand sanitiser is a good alternative. Carry a hand sanitiser and sanitise often in the absence of water and soap.

4. Abide by the 3 Cs: 

Avoid Crowded places – choose a destination that is not typically crowded or accommodations that have clear SOPs 

Avoid Confined Spaces – Always refrain from being in cramped spaces especially if there are many people

Avoid Close Contact – Be sure to keep a distance when communicating with one another 

5. Follow the rules by relevant authorities

Follow the rules by the authorities such as scanning your QR code and taking the temperature whenever you enter premises. The best is to do your homework on the SOPs that are implemented at the destinations prior to going there. Make sure that you check for symptoms and avoid going out if you see signs of Covid-19 such as fever, cough and sore throat.

6. Travel insurance and Access to Quality Medical Assistance

Some people choose to forgo travel insurance, but its importance has been gravely highlighted by the pandemic. Take the time to go through and check what is covered by your travel insurance and ensure you have the access to immediate assistance should you ever need medical attention during your trip. 

7. Practise good hygiene

The main thing that the pandemic has taught us is the importance of hygiene. Do your part by cleaning after yourselves and maintaining good hygiene at home and outside when you are travelling. Some of the things that you can do are cleaning your tray after eating at food premises and wiping the surfaces of the public tables after use.


Though 2020 had been a challenging year for all of us, with support from all parties, we may emerge stronger as we continue our battle with the pandemic – to sustain our lives as well as livelihoods. 

Here’s hoping to a brighter, better year in 2021! 


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