Notes from Travel and Tourism Committee Call, March 27

Notes from Q1 Travel and Tourism Committee Call | April 1, 2020
Authors: Lilibeth Almonte-Arbez, Steven Gunawan, Julianne Alberto

OVERVIEW
 
 

The Council is committed to advocating members’ interests amidst COVID-19. Below is a summary of discussion and next steps.

COUNTRY UPDATES BY US-ABC COUNTRY REPRESENTATIVES
 
 

For the latest travel and tourism update involving ASEAN COVID-19 travel restrictions and stimulus packages targeted to tourism, please click here.

Cambodia: Jack Myint

  • Cambodia announced a 30-day travel ban on foreigners from several countries
  • Moreover, the government imposes tax exemptions for hotels and guesthouses operating in Siem Reap until May 2020

Indonesia: Landry Subianto

  • Indonesia has the highest death toll due to COVID-19 in the ASEAN region. As of March 30, there have been a total case of 1,414 and the death toll climbed to 122
  • The government has introduced several stimulus packages:
    • 1st stimulus package was meant to assist the travel and tourism industry. However, the government has finally called for the suspension of the tourism activities after previously trying to promote it
    • 2nd package is the introduction of tax cut for businesses for the next 6 months
  • Currently, there has been discussion whether Indonesia will be applying lockdown. The Council will be monitoring the progress and update members accordingly.
  • Moreover, the President attended the G20 Virtual Summit on March 26 – in which he discussed about global cooperation to solve the problems and economic impact resulting from the outbreak (e.g. pulling in resources to ensure sustainable economic growth)

Malaysia: Tina Jamaluddin

  • The government announced that Visit Malaysia 2020 has been cancelled and the nation extended the restricted movement to April 14
  • Business activities in the tourism industry is negligible in Malaysia. Guests can only stay in their rooms and order room service
  • The Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture has been trying to seek for financial assistance from the Ministry of Finance. The Council has been in touch with the Ministry and will keep members updated on any new stimulus package

Myanmar: Jack Myint

  • Myanmar imposes mandatory quarantine for all incoming travelers, all visa on arrival and e-visa on arrival are also cancelled
  • The government has announced that they need hotels in Naypyidaw and Mandalay for quarantine centers

Philippines: Elizabeth Magsaysay-Crebassa

  • The government introduces lockdown in Luzon area, which currently contributes to 70% of the overall nation’s GDP
  • The lockdown will be expected to extend for another 1-2 months
  • Few days ago, the President granted emergency power to realign the funds, including those for the travel and tourism industry
  • Expect a portion of that will be going to tourism, stimulus package 2 – 3 Billion USD

Thailand: Praab Pianskool

  • Travel and tourism contribute to the 20% of the national GDP and the country has witnessed a 40% drop in the industry
  • The current occupancy rate in the hotel industry is single digit. Moreover, there has been discussion to impose stricter rules to curb the outbreak, especially in Bangkok and other tourist centers
  • The Council will monitor political developments closely. The Prime Minister will introduce a new decree that will take into effect until the end of April, in which foreign tourists will be barred from entry, other than expatriates and diplomats. Moreover, for those who will be entering the country, they need to apply to the Prime Minister’s office by providing a restrictive health certificate

Vietnam: Vu Tu Thanh

  • The demand for hotel services for quarantine is big due to the country’s mass quarantine strategy and it will be expected to have an increasing trend for the next couple of weeks and months
  • Despite barring tourist from entering the country, the country is in need of foreign expatriates in order to operate their FDI businesses. For instance, a South Korean ICT company needs to fly in thousands of engineers in a monthly basis
VIEWS FROM THE TRAVEL AND TOURISM COMMITTEE MEMBERS
 
 
  • Expressed appreciation for the US-ABC Philippines team COVID-19 updates and WhatsApp group and requested similar source of information across countries. The Committee work plan has to be changed to set up for recovery in 2020 similar to steps taken after Fukushima and SARS.
  • There is a lack of coordination of health and border control measures across ASEAN. Each of the countries work separately to solve the problems caused by the outbreak. Hence, industry players should pay an active role to collaborate with governments to handle the crises and share ideas on what a recovery looks like.
  • The industry has seen significant drop of customers. For instance, hotels across the region witnesses a single digit occupancy rate which lead to:
    • Disrupted cash flow to run the day-to-day businesses
    • Layoffs
  • For the short-term, it is recommended for ASEAN countries to look at Singapore, UK, South Korea measures. These include relief from a cash flow perspective (support to displaced workers, unemployment benefits or 80% wage coverage), tax breaks, and deferment of mortgages by 3 months and similar arrangements with lenders.   For the medium to long term, input to a recovery plan that targets tourism (risk management, include other players like airlines, aviation sector).
 
ACTION ITEMS AND NEXT STEPS
 
 
  • Updates on travel restrictions
    • US-ABC CEO & President Alexander Feldman mentioned that the latest President’s newsletter is a good resource
    • The Council will be circulating updates on COVID-19 and travel restrictions across ASEAN Member States. Moreover, the Council will have a webpage dedicated to COVID-19 updates.
  • More virtual roundtables on a bilateral basis
  • Council letter to ASEAN Tourism Ministers
  • Objective of the letter is to show and remind the government that private sector stands ready to support them for the economy recovery in general
  • Flag role of Council in local stakeholder consultations
  • Potential partnership with other associations (e.g. Asia Travel Tech Industry/ Asia Internet Coalition) for a joint letter
  • Explore more ideas to implement confidence building measures such as health check or pre-screening and a risk management system that institutes greater ASEAN coordination.
  • Ambassador Michalak advised that it is best to engage ASEAN governments on a bilateral basis rather than ASEAN Secretariat/ AMS in the short term.
  • Currently, governments focus on decreasing the number of victims and to ensure that the supply of basic necessities is fulfilled. Hence, the Council will need to determine the best timing to send a letter to the AMS.
  • An engagement with the ASEAN-wide leaders in the medium/ long run should be considered involving the entire Council membership not just one or two committees.

IMPORTANT CHANGE OF DATES

The Council will keep updating members and would like to direct their attention to the following postponements:

  • Postponed to mid-June 2020 (TBC): ASEAN Tourism Committee Meetings (ATCM) in Jakarta originally scheduled on March 31-April 4
  • Postponed to October 2020: APEC Tourism Working Group in Langkawi originally scheduled on April 14-17