THE people of Pulau Pangkor are looking forward to the day the island will reopen to tourists after the Covid-19 pandemic shuttered the nation’s tourism industry early last year.
Those who spoke to StarMetro feel that allowing tourists in will bring “life” back to the resort island and rejuvenate the economy.
However, concerns were voiced, particularly on the observation of standard operating procedures, and they hope these issues will be addressed before tourists are welcomed back.
Kampung Baru Sungai Pinang chief Chin Boon Hock said strict enforcement and adherence to SOP was needed to ensure everyone’s safety.
“Traders, eatery operators and other businesses hope to welcome tourists, but all those who want to come to the island must have completed their two doses of vaccinations,” he said.
“There needs to be enforcement personnel checking the digital vaccination certificates before tourists are allowed on the island.
“If no one checks and stops them on the mainland, and later it is discovered that they have not been vaccinated, it will cause issues.
“Should they be sent back to the mainland or will they insist on hotels letting them stay on? We want to prevent such a scenario,” he elaborated.
He added that nobody was conducting any checks at the jetty now.
“Everyone is being allowed to board the ferry,” Chin said.
Perak Tourism committee chairman Datuk Nolee Ashilin Mohammed Radzi had reportedly said that matters concerning crowding and checking of digital vaccination certificates would be conducted by a special committee comprising industry players, jetty operators and local authorities.
She said the Duty-Free Island Secretariat responsible for overall administration and management of the island on behalf of the state, would also work closely with the special committee on the matter.
She had earlier said that Pangkor was expected to reopen to fully vaccinated tourists from Nov 1, subject to approval by the National Security Council.
Travel bubble programme
Pangkor is part of the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry’s Covid-19-Free Destination Programme, which also includes Redang, Perhentian and Tioman.
The programme will see over 8,000 eligible residents, out of the 11,500 population, vaccinated to achieve herd immunity by end of the month.
It was also reported that six localities on the island were placed under the enhanced movement control order from Aug 8 to 21.
Pangkor was supposed to have been benefiting from its duty-free status, which came into effect on Jan 1 last year.
It was touted to be a game changer for its tourism industry, but then the pandemic and MCO on March 18 last year crippled the entire industry on the island.
Another concern, Chin said, would be the foreign workers who would be brought in by employers to work on the island.
“With the reopening, some bosses will look to bring in more manpower.
“It is my hope that the employers will strictly follow the SOP and regulations, including getting the workers to undergo quarantine before being allowed to work,” he pointed out.
There were still some Covid-19 cases, he added, but the enhanced MCO on the six localities on the island had been lifted.
“Hopefully, there will be no more cases and the situation remains under control until the island is reopened.
“We still have more than a month to go,” he said.
He urged the people on the island to continue observing the SOP.
“It will be good to put into practice the enforcement and SOP monitoring activities now,” he added.Crowd control and planning
Pangkor Hotels and Resorts Association chairman Mohd Zamzuri Suid said hotels, resorts and chalet operators were prepared to welcome tourists but were concerned about the number of tourists allowed on the island.
“It would be worrying if there’s no limit to the influx of tourists.
“Like in Selangor now, where people are allowed to go for recreational activities, I am worried things could get chaotic here if the island is reopened without proper measures in place,” he said.
“If we can control the number of tourists and ensure all strictly observe the SOP, we can be free of Covid-19.
“Perhaps the island should be limited to a few thousand visitors in the first week and then gradually increase,” Zamzuri suggested.
“We really do not want incidents which could force everyone to close again for three to four months.”
He said the association was meeting virtually on a regular basis to discuss preparations for the reopening of the island to tourists.
“We are still discussing how many room operators here are planning to open up for bookings.
“There are some suggestions to limit the sales of rooms to between 30% and 50%,” he said, adding that some hoteliers were planning to reopen only next year.
“I don’t think we should open right away at 100% capacity, but rather do so in stages,” he added.
Zamzuri said the association had also reached out to the authorities and ferry operators with hopes that they would act as “gatekeepers” to ensure the SOP was adhered to.
“I hope that there will be enforcement personnel monitoring activities at the beaches and in town.
“Checks must also be conducted at the jetty to ensure only fully vaccinated tourists are allowed to board the ferry.
“Ferry operators need to find a mechanism to only allow those who have received two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine to buy tickets.”
Meanwhile, Perak Tourism Association president Mohammad Odzman Abdul Kadir said all stakeholders needed to meet to ensure everyone was truly ready to adhere to the SOP.
“All relevant industry players, including ferry, restaurant, hoteliers and chalet operators, need to discuss how they can work together to ensure the island is safe to be visited.
“Everyone must be well-informed and all employees need to be briefed to follow SOP strictly.
“Staff can no longer say they do not know about the SOP.
“Everyone has their role to play and must work hand-in-hand to show that Pangkor is safe for visitors,” he added.
On crowd control at the jetties, Odzman said volunteers could be deployed by either Tourism Perak or the Manjung Municipal Council.
“Maybe it can be tried out for a week so that tourists are able to see that we are serious about ensuring their safety.
“I call on folk in Manjung and Pangkor to do it — to do something for their hometown and reignite the tourism industry,” he said.
“As for the tourists, I urge them to be understanding and tolerant if there are long queues,” he said.