Move to seek government’s help as virus hits travel industry

James Kon

The Association of Travel Agents Brunei (ATAB) is planning to seek assistance from the Government of Brunei Darussalam, to mitigate the adverse impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on the travel industry.

The assistance can be a temporary suspension, or a lowering of financial payment to banks or tax breaks. ATAB members have also been urged to give full details, for a strong case in seeking government assistance.

The proposal was raised during the ATAB members’ gathering and forum at The Rizqun International Hotel yesterday.

Legislative Council (LegCo) member and ATAB President Yang Berhormat Haji Abdul Hamid @ Sabli bin Haji Arshad said, “We need to tell the truth to the Government of Brunei Darussalam about the impact of COVID-19 on the travel industry. We need to give the facts and figures, so that we can present a solid case, and bring this to the attention of the government.”

One ATAB member, a local travel agent, revealed that inbound tourism has suffered a 70 per cent drop since the spread of COVID-19.

Legislative Council (LegCo) member and ATAB President Yang Berhormat Haji Sabli bin Haji Arshad

ATAB Deputy President Colonel (Rtd) Haji Zainal bin Haji Harun, meanwhile, said, “The banks in Brunei Darussalam should understand our plight and give assistance to our members during this difficult time, because this isn’t our fault.”

Yang Berhormat Haji Abdul Rahim @ Sabli said in his opening remarks, “The world is facing problems with COVID-19, and we are no exception. We are facing increasing challenges in various areas such as airlines, hotels, ticket-selling portals and transportation. Travel agencies may have to close down. I hope that our unity will address these issues together”.

Describing some of the issues faced by ATAB, he said, “We don’t do any business and we have no right to do business at the moment.

“ATAB has been run by the members since three years ago, and we don’t receive any salary or allowance.

There is no permanent office yet, and no staff.”

Several proposals were suggested by the members, which included the broadening of marketing efforts, familiarisation (FAM) trips to potential new product areas in Brunei, conducting regular roadshows and training for ATAB members.

Also, in a show of support for China’s efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19, both ATAB President and members gathered in a group to chant, ‘Wuhan jiāyóu! China jiāyóu!’ which roughly translates to “Stay strong, Wuhan! Stay strong, China!”