H1N1 and the Tourism Minister
Insight on tourism statistics
Malaysia's tourism relies heavily on inbound tourists; about 22 million ( year 2008) of them per year arriving with about 50% tourists consistently arriving from Singapore and the other 50% from other parts of the world.
This Press report on Tourism Minister Ng Yen Yen dated June 29 refers. Although she worries about the huge tourist drop from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and so on, the tourist count from these countries form a small percentage of Malaysia's total tourist arrivals only. Additionally, tourists from this part of the world do not contribute significantly to tourism revenue ie these groups do not spend much because of the average short stay of 3 nights. Also, they tapau (takeaway) a lot from the nearest convenience store- hence not contributing much to food & beverage revenue of the hotels they stay in.
Another factor is that these tour groups come in droves as opposed to single or couple travelers, causing hotel rooms being sold cheaply by the bulk to tour agencies. Rooms rates on the contrary, are usually sold higher to single or non-group travelers compared to transient groups. Lower room rates, lower revenue. Even though the decrease in tourists from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan is significant, the impact on tourism revenue will be not be as significant.
Temporary solution for the tourism and hotel industry
Instead of using the fall in tourist arrivals from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan as a reason to suppress stories on H1N1, why not do the following to help out the hoteliers and the tourism industry:
1)Get TNB to offer a temporary discount of say 50% off for 6 months, or waive that 'maximum' tariff rate on peak periods for hoteliers. Power cost is a major hotel killer cost- at least 50% of running costs of a hotel is electricity cost. Besides, Tenaga's maximum demand peak charge is an unfair monopolistic charge.
2)Create a better tourism yield- let's forget about the tourists from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan for a moment and shift our attention to geographical segments which contribute to higher tourism revenue. These market segments contribute a bigger thrust in tourism revenue because of the higher spending power of the people in these countries. Also these tourists tend to have longer average room nights compared to the China, Hong Kong and Taiwan tourists. The continents I am talking about are Europe, the Middle East (Middle East season is starting soon) and Russia (Russian peak season starts from December and ends somewhere in January). Get the higher spending tourists in right now. Get MAS to increase long-haul flights from those countries to our island resorts. Our island resorts need these flights in.
Why island resorts? Resorts have higher room rates, higher food and beverage prices plus a longer stay factor. All these are factors which contribute to higher tourism revenue.
3)Improve the service standards of the tourism industry. Service still sucks even in some 5-star hotels. The Tourism Ministry's hotel rating system puts too much emphasis on hotel hardware and too little on hotel service. For example, what's the point of having a nice swimming pool when hotel staff can't even serve your breakfast right? 5-star hotels must not only look good but serve good. The combination of great hardware and great service is a pulling factor for returning visitors. That's why international chains like InterContinental and Starwood invest millions in systems to continuously improve their service standards.
Yen Yen, it is time to revamp the hotel-rating system because Malaysia has one of the lowest (worst) hotel rates in the world.
4)Why is it that the greenish murkier waters off the beach of Phi Phi Island (Thailand) attract more tourists that the clear you-can-see-your-legs waters at Pulau Singa Besar (Langkawi). I'm baffled. What's happening to the A&P (advertising and promotions) of our country? I thought the budget's quite big for this?
Below: Screenshot fom MAS's online booking webpage- no direct flights from Heathrow UK to Langkawi.
I have said enough points. The next time someone tells you that it is ok to suppress info on infectious diseases because it impacts the country's tourist industry, please think again.