“Tripping” Through A Pandemic

Revitalizing the tourism industry by travelling locally

Image via chuttersnap

Is traveling to a foreign country on your bucket list? It probably is for most of us.

However, the emergence of COVID-19 has shoved a series of new habits and norms in our faces for us to adopt. That includes saying adieu to international travelling and greeting our new favourite hobby — travelling domestically.

Domestic tourism has been slowly rising in recent years, where a double digit growth was recorded for four consecutive years. In 2019, the domestic tourists expenditure registered RM103.2 billion, which was an 11.5% increase from the previous year. In fact, before the pandemic hit, the target was to have 92.8 million local visitors in the year 2020, compared to the 76.9 million visitors we received last year.  

Since interstate bans were lifted on June 10, people have been starting to travel again to get away from the confines of their homes. Malaysian Tourist Guides Council president Jimmy Leong has also admitted that the sector was moving faster than anticipated.

Local tourists walking around a theme park in Penang. Image via Malay Mail

Let’s take a look at what some of the players in the industry have been doing to contribute to the revival of Malaysia’s domestic tourism sector:

1. Sunway’s Ke Sana Ke Sini

Promotional poster. Image via Sunway City 

Adhering to Standard Operating Procedures set by the government. Image via The Star

Local tourists enjoying a show at the reopened theme park. Image via The Star

Originally priced at RM1599, Sunway offered a 70% off discount on their hotel package which completely sold out like hot cakes! Half of the 10,000 room nights were snatched up within the first 72 hours, and the 2 nights stay package for 2 adults and 2 kids includes entrance tickets to Sunway Lagoon as well as vouchers worth RM200 from Sunway Pyramid.

2. AirAsia

Infographic poster. Image via AirAsia

Travellers at the airport. Image via The Rakyat Post

AirAsia cabin crew’s new uniform. Image via Point Me To The Plane

The world’s best low-cost air carrier offered 6 million promo seats as part of their BIG sale when the pandemic hit, and now, they’re providing maximum flexibility for customers to either change dates for flights without paying a fee, or converting their flights to credits to book a new flight.

3. Hotels

Royale Chulan’s staycation package. Image via Royale Chulan

Local boutique hotel in Penang. Image via

Hotel buffet. Image via Prestige Hong Kong

Many hotels, whether they’re big names like Resort World Genting and Royale Chulan, resorts like Nexus Resort & Spa Karambunai or boutique hotels like The Blue Mansion, are aiming to lure visitors to their premises for a short weekend getaway by enticing them with various limited-time packages at cut prices and discounted or free usage of hotel facilities and food.

4. Visit Kelantan Year 2020

Image via Tourism Malaysia

Central Market in Kota Bharu. Image via Agoda

Disinfecting hotels as per protocol. Image via TTG Asia

To attract holidaymakers to visit their state, the state government is giving out free hotel vouchers to 5000 lucky guests! In efforts to recover domestic tourism and meet the targeted 5.5 million domestic travellers, the giveaway is on a first come first served basis, with 50 participating hotels.

Image via CK Yeo

Since the market is solely relying on local tourists to recover, it’s extremely vital that we Malaysians play our role as well. It’s indefinite as to how long the country’s borders will stay closed, and as consumers, we need to support local businesses. After all, from food and beverages to hotels and amusement parks, those in the tourism and hospitality industries need to make a livelihood too.

However, there are 4 criterias businesses need to fulfill in order to successfully bring the tourism industry back to its former glory, which the above players have demonstrated well. Let’s take a look at them:

1. Emphasis on Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)

These campaigns share an important feature: They emphasize very much on abiding by the SOPs set by the government. Besides assuring patrons that the hotels themselves are implementing them, they also stress that customers follow the SOP. As health and hygiene are the topmost priorities of customers at a time like this, maintaining the SOPs set by the Ministry of Health allows people to have fun with a peace of mind, thus encouraging them to come out more.

2. Offering Lucrative Discounts and Promotions

Everyone has been affected in some way or another financially and there’s no denying that the economy is tough now, so helping consumers get more for less is certainly a way to attract customers to venture out of their homes for a quick staycation. By cutting prices, people will be able to relax and enjoy their holidays at lower rates and businesses will be able to continue running and start slowly earning back their lost revenue.

3. Appealing to the Local Market

Hotels are adapting to the new norm by catering more to Malaysians instead of international travellers. Through tweaking of prices and localizing promotional packages, they prove to more people that it sure isn’t necessary to go overseas in order to be able to enjoy a good time — our country has many hidden gems and we can have everything in our own backyard. Malaysia is known for being a melting pot of culture, so people should take the opportunity to travel a little further from the comforts of home to discover new cuisines and visit various local attractions.

4. Restructuring Their Business Strategies

In order to successfully switch markets from international tourists to capturing local hearts, businesses are working hard to adapt and reposition themselves with new marketing strategies. Keeping in mind that every business is built on customer sentiment, it is essential for them to change the way they do things to maintain business and prevent any more losses in a competition heavy market. That means being flexible to cater to customers’ needs, for times filled with ambiguity may force patrons to cancel and reschedule their bookings, and businesses need to be able to deal with that.

Image via The Star   

Even in the face of adversity, there’ll be a chance to make a comeback, as the tourism industry has shown us. The key to survival is to persevere and adapt accordingly, and these values have been proven time and time again to be essential in moments of difficulty. It’s important to constantly be alert and come up with a solid game plan so that we’re able to grab the first opportunity to succeed when it presents itself.

However, business forecasting is still important and we need to always be ready for the worst as a burning question arises: How will the industry fare as the COVID-19 numbers rise again?

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