Air Charters to Kickstart International Tourism

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Controlled groups of passengers from chartered flights would be welcomed around the world.

Ever since the Movement Control Order was implemented from March 18, tourism industry players and associations had been making repeated calls on federal and state governments for emergency aids and temporary reliefs during this period with little or no income.

There were also announcements of putting hygiene, safety and security protocols in place and the need to publicise Malaysia as a safe destination. But many countries would also be doing the same and tourists would choose destinations that offer more meaningful experiences.

It would be a waste of time and money by promoting the same old products or repackaging old wine in a new bottle. Clearly, the days of mass tourism is over, and likewise mass advertising. It is now crucial to target and create niche markets and for industry players to consolidate.

Malaysian outbound and inbound tour operators must work together with their overseas counterparts to generate a constant flow of passengers for air charters, starting with only one departure weekly, then progressing daily and ending with many flights a day.

Unlike scheduled flights which passengers can travel at short notice, those booked for charter flights could be screened in advance and their health condition and movement constantly and closely monitored to ensure they will be free from Covid-19 when travelling overseas.

Before departure, these passengers may have to be quarantined overnight at a selected hotel and then transferred to the aircraft in chartered buses with minimum contact with others. The hotel, bus and aircraft would be thoroughly disinfected.

Such a controlled group would be welcomed by many governments around the world as the economies of many countries are at an all-time low and would need tourist dollar more than ever but are fearful of opening their borders to those infected by Covid-19.

It would be most viable to start with charter flights to and from Indonesia and China, as the second and third largest number of foreign visitors to Malaysia are from these two countries after Singapore. They are also highly popular with Malaysian tourists travelling overseas.

As almost every industry and citizen are affected by the pandemic and funding is limited and never enough for everyone, the only long-term solution is to generate revenue, particularly foreign exchange. Instead of merely doing promotions and waiting for foreigners to come when borders are open, it can be speeded up by being more proactive.

And it is time for leading industry players and leaders to rise to the challenge by several notches by consolidating and gearing the industry to operate charter flights in a big way. It can be made popular with initial promotional offers which would fill up the aircraft.

This is crucial for inbound tour operators as almost every passenger would be using their service, unlike the millions of foreigners that visit Malaysia monthly prior to Covid-19 outbreak, but many were independent travellers.

The views expressed here are strictly those of The True Net reader YS Chan of Petaling Jaya.