Langkawi tourism bubble gives hope to other destinations in Malaysia

Pantai Chenang in Langkawi may not be as lively as it used to be before the pandemic, but at least the beach is no longer overcrowded. — LIM BENG TATT/The Star

It has been nearly a month since the Langkawi travel bubble kicked off on Sept 16, and it seems like the programme has been a success.

Langkawi Development Authority (LADA) chief executive officer Nasaruddin Abdul Muttalib said in a report that up to Sept 30, tourist arrivals under the programme generated RM15.97mil in revenue for Langkawi.

Also, up to Sept 30, the island resort received 38,748 tourists, with 26,377 arriving via the Langkawi International Airport and 7,480 via the Kuah Jetty.

The Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry’s initial target was 30,000.

The government had earlier made a change in the standard operating procedures for the programme - all visitors must now show proof of a negative Covid-19 test before boarding the plane or ferry to the island.

The update in SOP was lauded by many, including folks who were initially sceptical of the travel bubble programme, citing worries of over-crowding and non-compliance of rules.

This in turn helped to boost confidence in people to travel, and the same can be said of viral posts and trending topics on social media of tourists safely enjoying their holiday.

And now that interstate travel may likely resume this month, tourism players are finally beginning to see some light at the end of the tunnel.

All this is definitely good for the travel industry and Malaysia’s economy too. But we must now strengthen the country’s position as one of the top choices in the region for holidaymakers, as Malaysia prepares to open its borders and restart international tourism.

This we can do by ensuring that everyone adheres to the SOP and not putting ourselves, or anyone else, at risk of getting infected so that we can remain a safe travel destination for all (or at least, for vaccinated guests).

Be inclusive

Meanwhile, in his speech to commemorate World Tourism Day on Sept 27, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed for a green and equitable restart of the tourism industry.

He highlighted the fact that in the first months of this year alone, international tourist arrivals decreased by a staggering 95% in parts of the world. Forecasts suggest a loss of over US$4tril (RM16.74tril) in the global GDP by the end of this year.

“This is a major shock for developed economies. But for developing countries, it is an emergency,” Guterres said.

“Climate change is also severely affecting many major tourist destinations, particularly the small island developing states,” his message continued. There, tourism accounts for nearly 30% of all economic activity.

Guterres also said that tourism enables “historically marginalised people and those at risk of being left behind to benefit from local and direct development”.

Tourism leads to prosperity and increases inclusive, sustainable development, he added.

“With many millions of livelihoods in jeopardy, it is time to rethink, transform, and safely restart tourism.”

This year’s World Tourism Day celebrations were held in Abidjan in Ivory Coast (Cote d’Ivoire), the host country, and carried the theme “Tourism For Inclusive Growth”. It was attended by 1,500 key tourism stakeholders and policymakers from all over the world, including tourism ministers from 12 countries, making this the largest ministerial participation ever for an official World Tourism Day event.

In his speech, UN World Tourism Organisation Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said that the travel sector needs to “commit to inclusive growth so that tourism’s restart brings hope for millions worldwide and ensures that everyone who has a stake in tourism also has a say in its future.”

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