Langkawi tourism test begins

LANGKAWI: After more than a year with hardly any tourists, Langkawi was brimming with domestic travellers on Malaysia Day yesterday.

Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri said the island’s travel bubble performance would be a benchmark for other local destinations to learn from.

Entry into Langkawi is only by sea and air, and authorities are ensuring only fully vaccinated tourists who have been screened for Covid-19 can set foot on the island.

“With a local population of 115,000 and almost 90% of them fully vaccinated, this will be the best place to measure the success of the scheme,” Nancy told a press conference here yesterday.

Expressing delight at the arrival of the first batch of tourists, she urged everyone, from authorities to locals and the tourists themselves, to play their part in ensuring that Langkawi can remain open and not become a Covid-19 hotbed.

She said the government hoped to repeat tourism’s performance in 2019 when the industry accounted for 15% of the country’s total gross domestic product (GDP).

Kedah police chief Comm Datuk Kamarul Zaman Mamat said police are so far satisfied with the standard operating procedure compliance among tourists.

He said the SOP compliance level at the ferry terminal and Langkawi International Airport were up to the mark.

Langkawi Tourism Industry Organisation president Ahmad Phisol Ishak said the arrival of almost 3,000 tourists was a welcome sight and gave hope to the tourism industry.

A holidaymaker from Shah Alam, Ahmad Farid Hanif, 49, said he was thrilled and delighted to be visiting Langkawi again.

“My family and I are fully vaccinated and we are looking forward to enjoying the tourist attractions on the island,” he added.

A bank employee, Ahmad Farid said he quickly booked flight tickets for his family after Langkawi was announced as the first destination to open under the travel bubble.

When asked if he was worried about Covid-19, he said he was confident being fully vaccinated and strictly complying with the SOP would protect him and his family.

“We have to learn how to live with the virus. We cannot be too afraid. We will always remember to follow the SOP,” said Ahmad Farid, who will be spending three days and two nights on the island.

For Rosmaizaini Mohd Zain, 50, her last trip to Langkawi was in March last year.

“We booked our flight tickets in January this year and now we are finally here again,” she said.

The mother-of-four said when the government announced the travel bubble, they quickly made travel plans.

She admitted feeling nervous when they underwent Covid-19 screening at the KL International Airport and was so glad when the results were negative.

Swedish national Katarina Carlfalk, who lives in Kuala Lumpur, expressed her excitement to finally be getting out of the city.

“It is an incredible feeling. I just want to go to the beach and enjoy this holiday,” she said.

Ahmad Farid, Rosmazaini and Catarina were among the first batch of travellers who arrived on Flight MH1432, which carried 159 fully-vaccinated tourists from KL.

Beside Nancy, present to greet the tourists were Kedah Mentri Besar Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor, state tourism committee chairman Mohd Firdaus Ahmad, and Langkawi Development Authority chief executive officer Nasaruddin Abdul Muttalib.

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