Visit Malaysia 2020 campaign axed due to COVID-19

Malaysia has cancelled its Visit Malaysia Campaign 2020 (VM2020), days after the government announced the Movement Control Order will be implemented to curb the spread of COVID-19. Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Nancy Shukri said the cancellation is "effective immediately" and comes as local and international tourism sectors are impacted by the virus outbreak. 

There is also a freeze on all over-the-counter and online services at the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture's (MOTAC) tourism licencing division. These include licencing of tour operators, tour guides, tourism training institutes and registration of tourism accommodation premises, as well as foot massage centres. The freeze will last until 31 March.

Nancy added that in line with the recent announcement by the Malaysian National Security Council on the Movement Control Order, all tourist accommodations are allowed to operate at a minimum level. However, all guests are required to remain in their rooms during this period and are allowed to order room service. The minister added that check-ins are allowed at tourist accommodations, but only on a small and limited scale. 

"For guests who wish to extend their stay during this period, they may register with tourist accommodations that fit their budget. However, new check-ins are allowed for local tourists," she said. Nancy also urged the public to practice social distancing during the 2-week lockdown.

Recently, the Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) said in a Facebook post that according to MOTAC, pending approval from the country's National Security Council, hotels are allowed to operate on limited services. This includes allowing in-house guests who had checked in before 18 March to stay until their intended check-out date. With the exception of F&B for room service purposes, other services in the hotel are not permitted to operate, MAH said.

CEO of MAH Yap Lip Seng said as of 16 March, Malaysia has seen at least 170,000 room cancellations amounting to RM68 million. “The cancellation of bookings represents the current impact caused by the COVID-19 but we are more concerned with the loss of demand for the coming months. We foresee that the losses will double by end of the year,” Yap said.

MAH also presented a series of proposals for the second economic stimulus, partly to assist tourism rebound but more focused on easing cash flow of industry stakeholders. Key proposals include reduction of employers’ contribution to EPF, increasing discount for electricity to 30%, extending the discount for water, waiver of quit rent and assessment for tourism properties and also a monthly payroll subsidy for employees earning RM2,000 and below. Additionally, MAH is also pursuing negotiations with local service providers and suppliers to hotels, to extend a fair discount to hotels for this period. “We are in talks with key vendors such as Astro, for a reduction in fees and discount for the period up to December 2020,” Yap explained.

Just yesterday, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said the Movement Control Order could be extended for two more weeks or longer should it fail to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Multiple media outlets including The Straits Times said the government wants to "break the chain of infection" to reduce the number of individuals infected by the virus.

Last month, MOTAC said it is restructuring VM2020 to focus on new markets after it witnessed a significant dip in the number of tourists arriving from Wuhan. Bernama previously reported that MOTAC was eyeing new markets including European countries, Australia, Middle East, Central Asia, Russia and East Asia. It also launched a "Quick Win" strategy for ASEAN countries as an alternative campaign. Before this announcement by MOTAC, Tourism Malaysia's spokesperson told A+M that its KPI for VM2020 remains unchanged, with the initial target for tourist arrivals from mainland China being 3,485,000 for 2020.

In the lead up to VM2020, Tourism Malaysia appointed The IO Movement last year to handle global advertising and promotion duties, as well as M&C Saatchi to handle digital marketing duties in Europe for nine months. The agency is also responsible for creating a music video for the Visit Malaysia 2020 campaign.

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