S’wak tourism players lobby for vaccine passport

KUCHING: The mandatory quarantine requirement upon entry to Sarawak should be reviewed for travellers who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 to boost the state’s tourism sector, says the Sarawak Tourism Federation.

Its president Audry Wan Ullok said inbound agents were receiving numerous queries from their counterparts in Europe and other countries where the vaccine had been rolled out.

“But as long as the 14-day quarantine is still enforced and borders are closed, they cannot disseminate much information.

“I think the state government needs to look into this very seriously to get tourism back on its feet again, ” she said at a webinar on Covid-19 vaccination and its impact on Sarawak’s businesses yesterday.

Currently, all travellers entering the state must stay at a quarantine centre for 14 days upon arrival and have a swab test done on the second and 10th days.

Audry said tourism was one of the worst-hit sectors with visitor arrivals last year dropping by 74% to just over a million people.

Tourism receipts also recorded a huge fall from RM11.57bil in 2019 to RM2.88bil last year.

With Covid-19 vaccination now underway in many countries, including Malaysia, she said the state’s tourism players wanted to know whether Sarawak would consider implementing a travel bubble or vaccine passport.

“In some countries, people will get a special passport to travel abroad, skip quarantine after vaccination and have access to cultural events and restaurants. Can we consider this?

“However, having said that, although people are vaccinated, it doesn’t stop them from carrying the virus. If these people were to go into the interior, we must make sure our people are also protected, so it’s a difficult situation, ” she said.

Fellow panelist Sarawak Bumiputera Entrepreneurs Chambers chairman Datuk Abang Helmi Ikhwan called for health visas to be granted to travellers who had been vaccinated to initiate tourism recovery.He said state tourism players were suffering from a lack of visitors while hotel occupancy was averaging below 15% since the pandemic started.

State Local Government and Housing Minister Datuk Seri Dr Sim Kui Hian, who also spoke at the webinar, said the state Disaster Management Committee would look into the idea of a travel bubble or vaccine passport.

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