Tioman ready to welcome tourists back

Tioman has long been a popular diving destination. — Filepic

Tourism players in Tioman, Pahang are ready to comply with the Covid-19 standard operating procedure to welcome visitors to the island, once again, after facing months of financial hardship.

They also hope there will be no turnabout in the decision to reopen as tour operators only have around two months to do business before the monsoon season in December, when ferries will not be allowed to operate.

Juara Mutiara Resort owner Shahrol Hazri Sani, 45, said its enquiry and reservation counters were flooded with calls from people wanting to know about rooms available and prices as well as activities offered.

“This is a relief for us as we have been badly affected since last year.

“In fact, this is the first time we have been tested so badly after 30 years of operations, so much so we had to temporarily lay off workers as we were unable to pay salaries.

“Since the announcement on reopening, I have started contacting former employees to offer them work again.

“The return of tourists will not only help the resort operators, but locals who depend on tourism as well,” he added.

Shahrol said operators were currently waiting for the SOP from the National Security Council.

Last week, Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri announced that Tioman was among the three new destinations allowed to operate under the government’s “tourism bubble” programme.

The other two locations are Genting Highlands and Melaka.

Pahang tourism, culture, environment, plantation and commodity committee chairman Datuk Seri Mohd Sharkar Shamsudin also confirmed last week that Tioman was ready to open its doors as it had achieved a broad coverage of vaccination since July, thanks to the Tioman Task Force formed in preparation for the return of tourists.

Hayati Hassan, 28, an employee at B&J Diving Centre in Air Batang, said during its closure under Phase One and Two of the National Recovery Plan, online promotions were held for customers to redeem packages purchased once the island got the go-ahead to resume operations.

“We have received many calls from those who want to utilise the promotion in October, including for diving lessons.

“Many customers still make reservations because Tioman is one of the most popular locations for diving.

“As for SOP compliance, we have no problem because all equipment are washed after use and we have now added a disinfection process.

“We have also set a new condition that requires a customer to use the same equipment from the first to the last day they are here,” he added.

Salang Pusaka Resort director Abdul Khalid Mohamad, 65, said SOP compliance was a priority for all tour operators on Tioman.

He said they would not want the Covid-19 virus to spread and force operations to stop before the monsoon season begins.

“We have families too, so we definitely don’t want them to be infected by the virus.

“We can help reduce the number of boat passengers or carry out sanitisation, but cooperation from tourists is also expected,” he stressed.

Abdul Khalid also hoped that the government would help reduce the ferry fare to the island, which could be as high as RM50 per person for a one-way trip.

Doing so will draw more domestic tourists to Tioman, he added. — Bernama

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