By YS Chan
A letter “MATTA done nothing to help tourism industry except appear in the media” published in a news website on Jan 31 has brought mixed feelings among practitioners in the local tourism industry.
If the writer is a member of the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA), he should take his concerns to the coming state chapters and national level annual general meetings (AGMs).
Resolutions submitted by members are debated during AGMs and voting will decide whether they are adopted or rejected. Interested members are free to contest in the elections held bi-annually, with the next one due this year.
The current MATTA president Datuk Tan Kok Liang was elected in 2017 and re-elected in 2019. What the association and president had been doing were well communicated to its members in the many meetings, email blasts, WhatsApp broadcasts, inhouse magazine and website.
The engagements with various ministries, Government agencies, local and international tourism bodies and associations were also made known to the members and publicised through the media, which is normal practice by those fighting for a cause and should not be faulted.
The first part of the heading “MATTA done nothing to help tourism industry” seem to suggest that the association is held accountable for the entire tourism industry by the writer. But what if MATTA members constitute less than 1% of the local tourism business?
According to the Department of Statistics, the gross value added of tourism industries (GVATI) in 2019 amounted to a whopping RM240.2 bil. It included RM92.6 bil from domestic tourism expenditure, RM89.4 bil from inbound tourism expenditure and RM44.8 bil from outbound tourism expenditure.
Sectors included in the GVATI were retail trade (46.2%), food and beverage (18%), country-specific tourism services (12.3%), accommodation (11.1%), culture, sport and recreational (4.7%), passenger transport (3.9%), automotive fuel (2%) and travel agencies (1.8%).
Although travel agents link up the services provided by many sectors in tour packages and can affect or be affected by their performance, no travel association can represent the interests of retail, food, beverage, hotel and transport operators, as these sectors have their own associations.
Even for the travel sector, the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture (MOTAC) allowed tour and travel businesses to be a member of any one of the seven associations they must register.
They are MATTA, Bumitra Malaysia, Malaysian Chinese Tourism Association (MCTA), Malaysian Indian Tour & Travel Association (MITTA), Malaysian Inbound Tourism Association (MITA), Car Rental Association of Malaysia (CRAM) and Persatuan Agensi Pelancongan Umrah & Haji (PAPUH).
Assuming that half of all tour and travel companies in the country are MATTA members, then its share of the total tourism business is only half of the 1.8% stated earlier. It would be unfair to single out MATTA or its president for failing to provide help to the entire tourism industry.
The one organisation that should take most of the blame on failures or credit on success is MOTAC. But with the pandemic ravaging and devastating economies around the world, MOTAC or the Federal Government should not be blamed for not doing enough.
If I believe that something can be done, I will share it as withholding is utterly selfish. Those running trade associations are aware that the Government has limited funds, but they cannot assume nothing can be done and have to keep calling for help, as expected by their members.
In truth, there is little anyone can do, in Malaysia or elsewhere, until the rate of COVID-19 infections is brought to a manageable level and the masses vaccinated. Until the landscape is stabilised, making attempts will be like swimming against the tide that is more like a tsunami. – Feb 2, 2021
YS Chan is Asean Tourism Master Trainer for travel agencies, master trainer for Travel & Tours Enhancement Course and Mesra Malaysia (both programmes under Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture). He is also a tourism and transport industry consultant and writer.
The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.