Many locals likely to head north next month

GEORGE TOWN: Trips to Thailand are expected to pick up next month among locals here, especially if travel regulations ease further.

Lim Yon Hong, who runs a travel and tour agency, said many people had been requesting trips to the neighbouring country.

“I received many requests in the past week. I believe people are excited to head over to Thailand to eat and shop,” he said.

“We do expect things to really pick up in June, especially if the regulations ease further.

“In April, things were slow as there was a compulsory one-day quarantine while this month, people are required to apply for a pass.

“Hopefully, there will be no need for a pass soon,” he said.

Lim, 44, who has worked in the travel industry for seven years, said many were unaware that they had to apply for the pass more than 24 hours in advance.

“There have been times where we had to turn back as the passenger did not apply for the pass.

“One cannot apply for the pass within 24 hours of travelling to Thailand. It needs to be approved beforehand,” he added.

Lim said that so far, he had made three trips to Thailand this month and two trips from Thailand to Penang.

“We had many more trips during pre-pandemic times but for now, this is a good start as many people have made enquiries,” he said.

Lee Chia Loon, 46, who runs a rest and recreation centre in Bukit Kayu Hitam, said more people are looking forward to travelling to Thailand next month and they are hopeful that there would be fewer standard operating procedures to adhere to when crossing over.

“We believe that in June, Thailand will do away with the need for personal insurance and the pass to cross over.

“There has been no official information or announcement yet, but we are hopeful as many people do not want to spend money on the insurance.

“People can still cross over now, but it is tedious as you need to apply for the pass a day earlier.

“Some are lucky as their pass is approved quickly, but it is not a sure thing,” said Lee, whose centre offers assistance for insurance and the pass to cross over the border.

Lee said while the pass is said to be for a single entry, it does last as long as the validity of the insurance.

“There are Malaysians crossing over right now, but usually they have family or work in Thailand.

“Earlier this month, there were groups of bikers but that was because there was a gathering of bikers in Phuket.

“Those crossing the borders from Thailand are usually workers heading back to Malaysia.

“If the pass and health insurance requirements are removed, we will definitely see an increase in travellers,” she said.

Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture Penang director Jonathan Freddy P. Bagang said the main indicator would be hotel occupancy.“Before the pandemic, people coming into Malaysia from Thailand usually went to Genting Highlands.

“If they do come to Penang, it is usually for business purposes.

“Many are looking forward to visiting Thailand, but there are not many activities happening there yet. I think businesses are slowly reopening,” he said.

The Sadao-Bukit Kayu Hitam and Wang Prachan (Satun)-Wang Kelian (Perlis) borders reopened on April 1.

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