KOTA KINABALU: Tourism players and hoteliers in Sabah are now planning ahead on how to leverage the festive and year-end holiday season as the country announces the re-opening of inter-district and inter-state travel starting Monday (Dec 7).
While the announcement does not cover areas with ongoing enhanced MCO, they are anticipating it would see more families travelling to relax since they have been cooped up at home.
“It is obviously a breather for the tourism sector. Earlier it was announced that the food and beverage industry is allowed to operate until midnight, and now we have more good news.
“Our resort anticipates new bookings with this latest development and we are trying to come up and promote new packages for the coming Christmas and New Year, ” said a communications officer to a popular resort downtown.
She added that they expect people from other districts like from the east coast to travel and visit the state capital, but stressed that the resort would adhere to the Covid-19 SOPs to ensure safety in their vicinity.
“There is no directive on swimming pools yet, but at present, dine-in and other facilities like gyms are allowed with a limited number of guests, ” she added.
While travelling rules have been relaxed, the conditional MCO is set to continue in Sabah until Dec 20, despite earlier slated to end on Sunday (Dec 6).
Octavius Usman who runs Mari-Mari Sepanggar island lodge, Riverbug (a white water rafting company) and Mari-Mari cultural village, said while he did not anticipate clients to return in bulk, but it was a good sign of letting the tourism industry to recover.
“It all depends on the Covid-19 cases, while it was a logical move to re-open travel but at the same time, people are still worried due to high cases.
“But a little movement is better than nothing, ” he said, adding that he plans to get the island lodge and white water rafting activities operational again soon, but would have to keep the cultural village closed for the moment as it would be too costly to run it with a low number of visitors.
Meanwhile, Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment minister Datuk Jafry Ariffin said the reopening for inter-district travels would allow the domestic tourism industry to be restarted.
He said though it is unclear to what extent tourism activities will be allowed at present, a small start is better than nothing.
“However, we would require the SOPs to be in place to avoid another Covid-19 outbreak, ” he said, adding that the existing guidelines and SOPs were sufficient.
He cautioned the need for the number of visitors be limited depending on the size of the area, and depending on how many active Covid-19 cases are there at an area.
“Of course parties or big gatherings aren’t allowed, ” he said.
Sabah Tourist Association chairman Tonny Chew said while they welcome the move to reopen inter-district and inter state travel, they were still not sure how much this would help the tourism industry, seeing that many are financially struggling.
“People in Sabah might not be willing to travel as much, while those from other states would not come here as yet because Sabah still is considered a red zone with the number of cases we see everyday, ” he said.
Nevertheless, he said this would still allow some income for tourism-related sectors.
“The SOPs must be strictly adhered to or else we will see everything going back to square one, ” he cautioned.
Chew said a start is needed to revive the economy but the people’s cooperation to make this work is very much needed.
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