'Travel industry may benefit from weaker ringgit'

'Travel industry may benefit from weaker ringgit'
Ringgit was traded at 3.4713 against US dollar yesterday.

KUALA LUMPUR - A weaker ringgit combined with easier visa requirements could be a boon to a tourism industry looking for visitors from countries that have stronger currencies, said the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA).

MATTA president Hamzah Rahmat said the Government should consider waiving travel visas, particularly for tourists from countries where the currencies are stronger.

"Malaysia is already an affordable destination but the move could make it the destination of choice for international visitors," he told The Star.

Hamzah added that both AirAsia and Malaysia Airlines (MAS) could help to boost tourism in the country by dropping fuel surcharges now that petrol prices were falling.

He said the local tourism industry was reeling from the soft global economy, which started last year and was compounded by the twin MAS tragedies this year.

Hamzah said next year should be better for the industry provided the world economy improved.

He said local travel industry players have learnt some lessons from the 1997 financial crisis and would be able to cope with the weaker ringgit.

Hamzah, however, added that travel companies which focused primarily on overseas travel for Malaysians would have to struggle more than those who cater for inbound travellers.

He said the rational move for Malaysians who cannot afford overseas holidays is to defer their plans.

MATTA vice-president for outbound travel Ab Rahman Mohd Ali expects a slum in demand for overseas travel.

He said companies, including multinationals, spend millions on overseas travel for the purpose of meetings, incentives, conventions and events (MICE) annually.

As an alternative, he added, travel companies could promote MICE travel to affordable South-East Asian destinations.

Fomca secretary-general Datuk Paul Selvaraj also encouraged Malaysians to travel domestically.

"Until the ringgit strengthens they should put off overseas travel. This has the additional benefit of helping the local economy," he said.

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