Langkawi bubble goes bust, but the Tiger may bring roaring business

LANGKAWI: After the Omicron variant put a dent in the international travel bubble programme, hotels here are now looking to the Chinese New Year holidays to get business roaring again.

Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) Kedah and Perlis chapter chairman Eugene Dass said arrivals here had been picking up, thanks to strong domestic demand.

At present, hotel bookings for the lunar new year at three- to five-star hotels on the resort island here stand at 50% but this is expected to rise in the next week.

The association has 51 members offering a total of 6,800 rooms.

“More people will come here during the holidays. That’s the time when most hotels will see a high occupancy rate,” he said.

Figures released by local authorities showed that a total of 2,528 foreign tourists had arrived on the island under the travel bubble, with 2,206 transiting from Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

The other 322 came via direct flights from Singapore, Australia, the United States, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Japan and Germany.

But this is a far cry from 81,577 local tourists who visited the island between Jan 1 and 13 this year.

There were a total of 296,543 local tourists in December, 233,527 in November, 157,595 in October and 38,748 in September.

On the slow foreign tourist arrivals, Dass said the Omicron variant had scuppered the Langkawi international travel bubble programme.

“Fears about the virus put a damper on the travel bubble. It will be some time before the island sees a spike in foreign tourists again.

“People are still wary of travelling and direct flights are scarce.

“Most major hotels saw less than 2% of foreign tourist occupancy since the travel bubble programme was launched on Nov 15.

“However, the hotels are not complaining. Local tourists are still keeping them busy,” he added.

Dass said the travel bubble would pick up once the Omicron fears were overcome and more direct flights into Langkawi were in place.

“MAH plans to sign two memorandums of understanding with a healthcare provider, Maju Healthcare, to facilitate standard operating procedures if hotel guests contract Covid-19,” he added.

Boat operator Shamsudin Mat Noor, 51, was frustrated that the travel bubble did not go as planned.

“Business has not been good. I have three boats meant for island- hopping by foreign tourists.

“I spent RM20,000 to refurbish them but there is no business yet,” said Shamsudin, who is now using the boats to ferry locals on short trips to nearby islands.

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