What went down at the Townhall meeting...

The much anticipated Townhall Roadshow meeting hosted by Tourism Malaysia’s Tourism Recovery Action Committee (TRAC) in Johor Baru was well attended by industry players here.

The Townhall Meeting participants stood in solidarity with
China and those affected by the Covid-19 outbreak
After visiting Kota Kinabalu and Penang, the Townhall Roadshow arrived in Johor Baru, another important entry-point into the country, to meet with concerned groups in the travel, accommodation, food & beverage sectors and related players in the tourism industry.

This Townhall Roadshow was an initiative by the Government to meet and hear from the industry players and provide feedback to the Recovery Action Committee in order to roll out an economic stimulus package of measures to support the struggling tourism industry.

The Townhall Meeting organised with Tourism
industry players in Johor was well attended
Representatives from theme-parks, hotels and resorts, tourist destinations as well as tour and travel operators, and a large group of media members assembled in the hall, patiently waiting for the meeting to start.

Visitor arrivals in Johor have been severely affected by the novel coronavirus or Covid-19 outbreak and the entry restrictions enforced by neighbouring Singapore towards travelers from China and other affected nations, where visitors often planned tours and stays in Johor.

Malaysia and Singapore share a common border and the two nations have agreed to share information and work together to exercise and enforce measures in tandem to prevent and control the spread of Covid-19.

Dr Jayanthini Sathasivam from the Public Health Division
of the Johor Health Department sharing info in the meeting
In addition to zero tour group arrivals from these affected nations, regular visitors from Singapore have also refrained from coming across the causeway into Johor.

The clusters of infections happening in Singapore have caused regulars to be extra cautious in travelling to JB and avoid risk of any possible infection.

All who are involved in the tourism sector including restaurants, cafés and even food courts here are going through lean times and finding it a serious challenge to sustain their businesses.

The mood was tense as they awaited the arrival of panel members made up of Mohd Zamri Mat Zain, Deputy Secretary (Tourism) from the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Dr Jeyanthini Sathasivam from the Public Health Division of the Johor Health Department, Datuk Musa Haji Yusof, Director General of Tourism Malaysia and YB Liow Cai Tung, State Tourism, Women Development, Family and Community Committee Chairman.

Dr Jeyanthini did well to alleviate fears with her
knowledge and information from the Health Department
While staying hopeful that this meeting would provide them with some solutions to their problems, an atmosphere of anxiety prevailed among the industry players as they discussed their common issues.

Upon arrival of the panel members, the event kicked off with an opening address by Mohd Zamri Mat Zain, Deputy Secretary (Tourism) from the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture.

He expressed his concern towards the prevailing situation and said that his Ministry was aware of the cancelled trips from foreign visitors into Johor and its adverse effects on the tourism and related sectors.

In response to this, the Tourism Recovery Action Committee or TRAC was established on Feb 4 and have since been working with the relevant parties to create an Action Plan to mitigate the situation.

Datuk Musa HajiYusof, Director General of Tourism
Malaysia, discussing the Objectives of GAMELAN
Among the proposed solutions was to consider alternative markets and to create attractive packages catered to the domestic market and embark on it along with the Cuti-Cuti Malaysia campaign.

Aware that the general public may be ignorant about the Covid-19 threat on themselves and their families, Dr Jeyanthini Sathasivam from the Public Health Division of the Johor Health Department, gave a comprehensive presentation to alleviate their fears.

While the situation about the virus was evolving, Dr Jeyanthini explained that she was sharing information about “what’s out there” and it was up to individuals to respond intelligently and not to become paranoid or paralyzed by fear.

Question from Henry Chua, a tour
and travel operator in Johor
She emphasized that the public must seek accurate information, verify information and ensure it was properly clarified before sharing the info because it would serve no purpose but only to spread fear and rumours.

Dr Jeyanthini was pleased that the Johor Health Department responded proactively to the situation that was happening globally and had activated the Crisis Preparedness & Response Centre (CPRC) in Johor since Jan 5.

As such, the Johor Health Department was prepared to deal with the eight cases that were tested positive when they subsequently occurred in Johor.

It was reassuring to learn that all the eight, who were imported patients, were treated, recovered and then discharged from hospital.

Her presentation included helpful and educational details about the Covid-19 virus, its characteristics, the risks, how it spreads and the prevention of its spread.

Dr Jeyanthini also encouraged everyone to be vigilant and to exercise social responsibility.

If anyone experienced flu symptoms, they should wear a mask and not hesitate to consult a doctor, then obey the doctor’s orders and stay at home to rest and recover.

A question by Henry Goh from Desaru Fruit Farm
She did not advocate people who were not sick to wear a mask because there was a shortage and the limited stocks of masks were required by those working in the frontlines or dealing with Persons Under Investigation (PUI).

She explained that the travel ban imposed by Singapore to travelers arriving from countries like China, had helped to control the situation and reduced the number of visitor arrivals into Johor.

In addition, a Notice was also issued to the public to cancel any non-essential travel to China and other affected nations since Feb 4.

With these steps in place, the virus spread has been under control and it posed no threat to the public who wished to travel within the country.

Datuk Musa Hj Yusof, replying to a question from the floor
Datuk Musa Hj Yusof, Director General of Tourism Malaysia, reassured the industry players that the knowledge garnered from the SARS virus experience (2002 – 2004) was helping the nation to respond better to the Covid-19 situation and the crisis recovery measures put in place then were being reactivated now.

Staying positive, Datuk Musa said the prevailing situation was an opportunity to spur domestic travel and he encouraged industry players to consider holding virtual travel fairs to offer strategic promotions for both medium and short haul trips.

He discussed the Tactical Plan for a Quick Recovery, with steps and actions to reduce economic damage to the tourism industry, that included aggressive domestic promotions.

Dr Jeyanthini replying to a question from the floor
Datuk Musa also encouraged the industry players to consider applying for financial support in the form of a reimbursable grant dubbed, GAMELAN, the short-from for Galakan Melancong Malaysia, Malay for Incentives to Visit Malaysia.

In the much-awaited Question and Answer session, pertinent questions from the floor were asked by hoteliers, resort owners as well as a tour and transport operator.

While the questions reflected their real experiences, there were in fact, no pat answers to these questions from industry players who were feeling the pinch from the challenges arising from the Covid-19 outbreak.

They were however, encouraged to persevere in the circumstances because all their feedback would be considered before the Government will announce the details of the economic stimulus package, (initially) planned for Feb 27. [This has since been changed to a later date.]

YB Liow Cai Tung responding to a question
In her closing address, YB Liow Cai Tung, State Tourism, Women Development, Family and Community Committee Chairman, thanked Datuk Musa for the initiative by Tourism Malaysia TRAC, in organizing the Townhall Roadshow meeting in JB.

YB Liow expressed her concern for the hardship experienced by the tourism industry that was not only happening here but also worldwide.

She urged the industry players to stand united and stay focused, and not to lose momentum in their promotions for the Visit Johor 2020 campaign.

“Every crisis is an opportunity,” said YB Liow as she encouraged them to change their strategy and move forward with their domestic tourism ideas.

“Together we can get through this!” she added.

The Townhall Roadshow meeting ended on a high note with words of encouragement
to China and those affected by the Covid-19 outbreak.
In a show of solidarity with China and those affected by the Covid-19 outbreak, everyone at the Townhall meeting stood together – holding up placards emblazoned with Tourism Malaysia logos and taglines – to record a brief video that will be broadcast on social media.

In one voice, they chanted an encouraging phrase, “China, we are with you, Jia Yew!”

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