A glance at Malaysia’s new age of travel
Malaysia’s transition to Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO) is rubbing the itch on fidgeting travellers.
Greenlight on domestic tourism means we can finally dust off our calendars and start marking possible vacation dates.
Yes, we know many of you are still pretty bummed that you can’t fly off to lands far far away, but having state borders re-open still gives you the option of 13 states and everything within.
However, planning won’t be as straightforward as it was during the pre-MCO era.
For as long as there are COVID-19 cases recorded anywhere in the world, the ‘new norm’ will persist until it just becomes ‘normal’. This will inevitably lead to new travel routines that will be around at least till the end of 2020.
What exactly are the changes set to take place? Nothing can fully be predicted, but here are a few plausible scenarios to consider.
1) Can never be too careful: Compulsory health protocols & SOPs, EVERYWHERE
Temperature checks, tracing apps, sanitizing and social distancing are all here to stay. Under government orders, these procedures are mandatory so you’ll need to get used to it if you haven’t already.
It’s also advisable that you include face masks and a mini bottle of sanitizer to your packing checklist. In addition, you’ll need to comply with guidelines set by the Ministry of Health, namely:
Avoid 3C’s: Crowded places, Confined spaces, Close conversations
Abide 3W’s: Wash hands frequently, Wear masks in public places, Warn others to be careful
What to expect
Social distancing measures will affect intake capacity of attractions. Lesser intake, means lesser admissions.
Occupational health expert Dr. Shawludin Hussin told Bernama that “Under the SOPs, they can only allow a certain number of customers into their premises at any one time.”
Despite the need to recover losses, setting aside SOPs for the sake of more visitors is out of the question.
The best option when planning your next trip is to book fast and book beforehand. If you’re opting for walk-in purchase, having a plan B is a good idea just in case you end up in a queue of 300 to an attraction that can only accept 50 visitors at a time.
2) The battle for your money: Competitive promo deals from Hotels and Resorts
Hotels will be fighting to stay afloat after 2 months of nil guests. Whoever is left standing post-MCO will be in a marketing bloodbath, where only those who has the margins to supply the best deals at the cheapest prices will remain triumphant.
Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) chief executive Yap Lip Seng told Malay Mail that members have already devised packages to include more experiences instead of just standard discounts.
Yap reaffirms that “The promotions are add-value based, to give more to guests rather than just discounts.”
What to expect
Promotional packages of all sorts would be tested in the market. Some will come through, others will not.
While they struggle to appease potential customers with trial and error experiments, spectators like yourselves have the luxury of sitting back and calling the shots based on your decision on whether or not to purchase.
In some way, you’ll determine the future of hotel and resort marketing.
Keep your eyes peeled for upcoming deals, discounts, and bundle packages. A leisure scroll through travel platforms may land you on a too-good-not-to-buy deal for your next holiday.
Tourism rebound is inevitable, and you’d want to catch it at its most competitive peak.
3) Size matters: Smaller (getaways) is the way to go
SOP and health protocols that apply to attractions will apply to accommodations as well. This means that even hotels and resorts will have to limit capacity.
Large families and big group holiday plans will prove to be a headache in terms of logistics, so it’s best to keep things on a smaller scale.
MAH chief executive Yap Lip Seng predicts that business travellers and couples will dominate demand for hotel rooms. Families inclusive of elderly and young children will most likely be put on hold simply because they are most vulnerable to the virus.
What to expect
Not only is it a health risk to book all your aunties, uncles, grandmother, grandfather, nieces, nephews, in-laws in the same accommodation, it is also expensive and time-unfriendly.
Even if you did manage to snatch up 3-4 rooms for your kin, you’d probably be prohibited to gather. A scheduled meet-up is an unconventional idea, but we all know what Malaysian timing is like.
It’s still pretty unclear where vacation rentals fit into all this. What’s certain is that there’ll be harsher monitoring on room occupants. Yep, no more booking a 2 bedroom apartment for all 20 of your friends.
The best solution by far is to opt for smaller, meaningful vacations with plenty of heart-to-heart bonding.
4) Do you know how to pitch a tent?: Camping & Glamping holidays to surge
If hotels, resorts, and vacation rentals pose too much a risk, many people will turn towards accommodations that are less congested.
Malaysia Association of Tours and Travel Agents (MATTA) president Datuk Tan Kok Liang supports this. Speaking to Malay Mail, Datuk Tan Kok Liang says MATTA members are putting together value-added packages geared towards nature, adventure and private tours that adhere to government guidelines.
What to expect
We’re looking at a surge in demand for outdoor camping or forest chalets. These options typically have lesser guests, therefore making it an enticing solution for those seeking to keep free from the crowd.
Don’t worry, we don’t expect everyone to be comfortable wiping with leaves. You’d be glad to know about the existence of glamping: short for GLamarous cAMPING.
These accommodations offer you deluxe comfort suites while being immersed in nature. Who says you can’t have the best of both worlds?
Glamping has had trouble breaking out over the years, but the need for distancing and low-risk options may see it earn popularity at last.
If consumer trend towards glamping is promising, it’s possible you’ll see major hotel conglomerates follow suit.
5) Back to nature: Outdoor hiking activities as relief from grim reality
People are still uncertain about how things will pan out and will be saving cash for rainy days. Likewise, many who are already hit with financial burdens won’t lighten their wallets on things they find unnecessary.
Until some sort of path can be laid out, hiking activities can expect to rise simply because they are the cheapest and least taxing recreational activity to plan.
Ever since RMCO was implemented, many have already taken to the hills and jungles to get some sort of relief. However, they are limited to day trips and in groups of not more than 20 people.
As of today (15th June 2020), water activities in public and private residences – along with extreme sports such as motorcross, ATV, mountain biking, rock climbing, paragliding, abseiling, and wall climbing – are prohibited.
What to expect
Those aching to embrace the confines of Mother Nature will be limited to day hikes. Although you’ll be safest in terms of virus transmission, don’t forget that other dangers exist when you’re out on trek.
Check on the difficulty of the hike beforehand. If you’ve been idle for most parts of lockdown, assess your physical strength in honest to see if you can match the standards.
6) No splashing around: Theme parks to open gradually (?)
No splashing good time or slip n’ slide fun just yet. Watersports are still off limits, which means water-based attractions will have to find some other way to cope.
Non-water-based theme parks may still open, as Penang State Tourism, Arts, Culture and Heritage Committee chairman Yeoh Soon Hin is currently pushing for that possibility.
He said in a statement, “I have raised this matter during the Exco meeting and wrote in to MKN for confirmation. The non-water base theme parks including Escape and The Top can now open with the exception of their water-based attractions.”
What to expect
If theme parks do open after RMCO on August 31st, it would be under stringent SOPs and preventive measures. You can also expect clarification by establishments as to the measures taken in order to assure visitors.
This is already taking place in Sunway Lagoon and Sunway Lost World of Tambun.
Sunway Theme Parks Executive Director Calvin Ho is confident in the parks’ safety standards, which includes constant chlorination, auto-dosing systems, and disinfectant blasters, among others.
Despite all this, even if both theme parks were allowed to operate, it would do so at only one-third capacity. That is the careful approach that water-based theme parks will need to adopt.
A timeline hasn’t been set for a re-opening, but a government decision may be made in weeks or days to come.
7) Keep it down! No concerts, raves and sporting events for a long, long while
As far as crowded places go, concerts, raves, and sporting events are a major ‘no’.
These events are the opposite of social distancing measures and pose too much of a health hazard. Even if they were organized, many Malaysians would opt not to go, as this Star Lifestyle report claims.
Sporting events are the same. Even on an international level, sport competitions and leagues are either cancelled entirely or played behind closed doors – generating little to no revenue in the process.
Even the 2020 Olympics have been tentatively postponed to 2021.
What to expect
Put simply: we don’t foresee any stadiums filled this year – for sports and concerts.
Virtual concerts, however, may be on the cards. This has been a popular trend from artists during lockdown, done either for charity or for fun.
In the music scene, mega EDM artists Martin Garrix, David Guetta and Timmy Trumpet have played their sets live in their own spaces on Youtube. While musicians Chris Martin (Coldplay), John Legend and Billie Eilish have also gone live on social media to host mini-concerts.
Pay-per-view (PPV) concerts is something to look out for in the coming months.
Kpop idols BTS are ahead of the game with their recent ‘Bang Bang Con’ paid online concert, which drew about 700,000 viewers worldwide.
Following the success, many organisers would have their eyes on PPV interactive concerts as an alternative to engage fanbase.
At least for the foreseeable future, you’ll have to make do with fangirl/fanboying in your own rooms.
An imminent rebound
If we each take it upon ourselves to be responsible citizens and prevent another wave of COVID-19 cases, then this pandemic will quickly become a thing of the past.
Recovery will be long, systematic, yet certain. But it will need the collective work of Malaysians to fully heal.
It is only a matter of time until Visit Malaysia can finally take off again, but till then, stay safe, and selamat bercuti!