NO MONEY!? BITTEN BY WEAK RINGGIT, MALAYSIANS STAY HOME DURING HOLIDAY SEASON THIS YEAR
KUALA LUMPUR— The end of the year is usually holiday time for Malaysians, especially with the long school break.
Recent years have been different, however, as a combination of rising costs and a deteriorating ringgit have made holidays — particularly abroad — a greater luxury than they once were.
Nearly a dozen families polled by Malay Mail Online said they were cutting back, either by trying to select more affordable options or even foregoing vacations altogether.
One such family that has opted to give up holidays completely is that of Jagjit Singh’s.
“We just cannot afford holidays anymore. The cost of it is too expensive. We just end up taking them to malls or parks,” he told Malay Mail Online, referring to his children.
The “trips” to the mall also do not mean they get to spend lavishly there, as the family mostly uses their time window-shopping or possibly watching a movie.
According to his wife, Taranjit Kaur, a local holiday would cost them between RM1,000 and RM2,000 per trip, which they can ill afford.
“In the current economic situation, my husband has to do Uber despite him having an office job. I also support our income by tutoring part time,” Taranjit, 31, said.
The ringgit this week fell to its lowest since the Asian Financial Crisis, spurred by an investor sell-down of emerging market assets as well as Bank Negara Malaysia’s ongoing crackdown on currency speculators.
It traded at 4.48 to the US dollar on Monday morning, a level that it has not reached since the 1998 crisis.
Nurse Amutha Rayaretinam, whose family visited Istanbul, Turkey last year, said they would be travelling to a local destination this year, possibly Port Dickson in Negri Sembilan or Langkawi island in Kedah.
“The currency is very bad… I used to go travelling once a year but this year I cut off because now our currency is very low.
“Now wherever we go our currency value very low, last year I still went,” the 38-year-old mother of two told Malay Mail Online.
Those who still plan to holiday abroad are also cutting back, opting to visit a single country rather than going on the multiple-nation tours that they previously chose.
Mother of two school-going children, Pei Gin, is among those considering this option to allow their families to still go for holidays outside the country.
“There is not much travelling for us now. We have lessened our spending, of course. We used to go for long overseas holidays, like two to three places. Now, we have to narrow it down to one, if we do go at all,” the homemaker said.
Even travel agents are opting to holiday locally.
Annuar Rizwan poses with his family at a supermarket in Kuala Lumpur.According to travel consultant Annuar Rizwan, his profit is down by nearly half compared to last year due to Malaysians opting to remain in the country as well as from competition of the ever-growing number of “staycation” providers.
To cope, he said he either takes his family for domestic holidays or to theme parks such as Sunway Lagoon.
“Usually we just go window shopping at malls. We don’t buy anything because we can’t afford it. We just look and see,” the father of two school-going daughters said.
Annuar added that his family is prioritising education for his two girls, and needed to scale back any luxury spending.
They also try to save where they can, such as shopping for discounted school supplies or during sales.
“Education is one thing we don’t think we can cut down or reduce on. We have cut down on their shopping allowance and have tried restricting them from spending unnecessarily.”
But not everyone is complaining about foreign trips becoming more expensive.
The Malaysian Inbound Tourism Association (Mita) told Malay Mail Online that business has been booming for its 1,500 members, although it did not provide statistics.
Mita president Uzaidi Udanis also said local holidays is still very affordable if consumers are shrewd at spotting deals, such as early booking discounts or choosing off-season stays.
“The local destinations are ever popular among Malaysians. There might be a drop from overseas travels but as far as local travels are concerned there is an increase. Fewer people are leaving the country,” he said.