The Future of Tourism: Where are We Heading?

When will we see you again?

As of July 2021, Malaysia, like the rest of the world, has faced this unwanted Covid-19 pandemic for more than a year and a half. A chapter’s worth in a history book, our lives have changed almost completely, sometimes leaving us wondering what it was like before, as if the ‘pre-Covid’ life was a decade ago.

Every aspect of our lives has been altered left and right, and almost every working industry has had to bear the brunt of this sudden yet continuous impact. Naturally, the tourism industry was the first to be hit, hard. From the closing of international borders to new terms like ‘travel bubble’, and vaccination rollouts worldwide, we are still fighting hard to resuscitate from this unprecedented crisis.

After facing various lockdowns, we have come to realise the many things we have taken for granted, like our small trips to the grocery store, a late-night supper at our local mamak restaurant, and even the ability to go to work! Cooped up within the same four walls every day, we have also realised how we have taken travelling for granted, especially domestically. If given the chance (and freedom), we would go for that road trip in a heartbeat!

In the midst of it all, what exactly is the future of Malaysia’s tourism industry? Especially our inbound tourism? We welcome the month of July with a cumulative amount of 8,083,685 doses of the Covid-19 vaccine already being given to Malaysian citizens and residents. This includes the mass vaccination that has started in Langkawi Island, Kedah.

Chosen as the pilot destination for the government’s Covid-19 Free Destination Programme, it is targeted that herd immunity will be achieved after 80% of the island’s population is fully vaccinated, and is ready to receive tourists. While we have braved through the long months by surviving on domestic tourism, this programme is carefully planned out to prepare the industry players for when border restrictions can be eased.

The programme is a three-phase plan outlined by the Ministry of Tourism, Arts & Culture (MOTAC), in line with the government’s recently announced National Recovery Plan. For the first phase, Langkawi is naturally selected as it is one of Malaysia’s preferred destinations by both domestic and inbound tourists, and it is conveniently equipped with its own Langkawi International Airport.

The next targeted destination for Phase Two is Kuching, Sarawak, followed by other islands across Malaysia such as Tioman, Redang, Pangkor, and Perhentian. After the success of these two phases, we hope to accelerate the third phase, where MOTAC will work with state governments in deciding more tourist destinations to be highlighted as ‘Covid-19-free destinations’.

Of course, for such to be achieved, MOTAC together with the state governments will decide on suitable facilities that can be used as public vaccination centres (PPV) to speed up the mass vaccination. If all goes well, the next anticipated step is to buckle up in gradually welcoming our neighbours, and the rest of the world.

So, to answer the question of where the industry is heading towards in terms of reviving our domestic and international tourism, it looks like we are heading to the islands! And hopefully, much sooner than later, the rest of Malaysia.


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