PETALING JAYA: While the opening up of Langkawi is a good start in the revitalisation of the travel industry, tourism industry players opined that other tourist destinations should be given a shot in the arm too. The secretary-general of The Malaysian Association of Tour & Travel Agents (MATTA) Nigel Wong said that vacation destinations should not only be confined to islands.
“Even though each island may have its individual characteristic, it’s just a matter of modelling the restricted location and making sure the SOPs are in place.
“We are moving into the endemic stage where the vaccination rate is 80%, so why take it so slowly? If the model works, open up different locations sooner rather than later,” he said.
The island-resort opened up under a travel bubble project on Sep 16, allowing fully-vaccinated and certified Covid-19 free tourists access to holiday facilities.
He said that the economy, in general, needed a kick-start and that it was vital that the tourism industry got back on its feet after being severely impacted by the pandemic.
He said plans were also needed for possible international border re-openings.
He said Malaysia’s neighbours had opened up their borders, with Singapore welcoming travellers from Germany and Brunei, and Phuket doing likewise.
“Domestic tourism is not sustainable in the long run. We need to start making adequate preparations with the view of welcoming in-bound tourists once again,” he said.
He said that the government should look at tapping into Sabah and Sarawak, the country’s main tourism destinations.
“There cannot be any more U-turns by the government. It has already decided on its main course of action and the thing now is to work, refine and improve on policies; not cut short anything in its infancy,” he said.
Malaysian Inbound Tourism Association (Mita) president Uzaidi Udanis said that they were pushing for a few destinations that had achieved “herd immunity” such as Pulau Tioman, Pulau Pangkor and Federal Territory Labuan, to be reopened.
He cautioned that with the east coast states expected to experience the monsoon season soon, the nearby islands will have to close up and operators will have to wait until end of March to reopen.
He proposed that tourists be allowed to head to these destinations soon as operators would have at least one month to welcome tourists. This, in turn, would provide some financial relief for their businesses.
Uzaidi said industry players did not want Langkawi to be the sole focus, as this could also result in overcrowding at public areas.
Uzaidi said that Genting Highlands could be opened up as well, as most of the workers there had been fully vaccinated.
“You can control the entrance and it is a high-yield destination where people spend money,” he said.