Tan Kok Liang

KUCHING: The federal government has been urged to develop and implement health accreditation that could guarantee health and safety standards to help resuscitate the tourism industry.

Making the call, the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) said the initiatives would certainly boost confidence on tourism facilities for both locals and tourists.

Matta president Datuk Tan Kok Liang cautioned that unless such initiatives are undertaken, Malaysian tourism industry would be trailing behind neighbouring countries.

In a statement at the online forum organised by Matta in collaboration with The Star Media Group, he said, “The tourism industry needs to deal with the core issue of health and safety confidence in travel as the new priority.

“No amount of digitalisation, promotions, incentives or freebies can directly help to create demand except to boost the much-needed confidence that it is safe to travel through coordinated efforts with the relevant authorities,” he added.

Tan said the global private sector had aligned around the health and safety protocols to create consistency across the industry.

He said the future of travel and market recovery in the next 12 months would be challenging and unpredictable due to the global recession along with travel restrictions resulting in the industry coming to a standstill.

Bolstering the confidence to travel among consumers was therefore the key to recovery in tourism, he said, adding that the industry had grown very sensitive towards health and safety protocols.

“Issues such as privacy and cleanliness will become paramount as part of the new norm, keeping in mind the push-pull of people wanting to see the world while also wanting to stay safe,” he said.

“Travellers will only venture into the world if they feel it is safe to do so. It is therefore crucial for industry stakeholders to provide them with confidence and peace of mind.”

He cited Britain which had recently announced plans for a “quality mark” to be rolled out across the country.

“The mark will denote to potentially nervous customers that the operators are conforming to government regulations. The badge will act as a safeguard towards staff and visitors and earning it will require rigorous online training and assessment session focused on hygiene and physical distancing which suppliers will need to complete before self-certifying.

“Additionally, countries like Turkey, Singapore, and Thailand are also developing and implementing a health and safety certification as a preventive and protective step for the tourists as well as to ensure that tourism is able to recover quickly once travel restrictions are lifted.”

He said many tourism businesses are beginning to embrace the emergence of new norms positively, in preparation for when the situation starts to normalise.