Tourism Industry Reopening: The Time Is Nigh

Langkawi, in all of its glory, awaits the return of domestic tourists.

With Malaysia Airlines, Firefly and AirAsia's operating crews are fully inoculated, the prospect of easing travel restrictions for both vaccinated domestic and international travellers might be expected soon as Malaysia is gearing up for the resumption of air travel.

Travellers can be assured of the stringent health and hygiene protocols with more options of doing online self-check-ins as well as digital payment to enable hassle-free procedures in the airport. The cabin air filtration systems in Malindo Air and AirAsia’s commercial aircraft, for example, are equipped with High-Efficient Particulate Air (HEPA) filters to provide hospital-grade airflow to prohibit any risk of infection.

While the much anticipated reopening of Langkawi is expected in September as part of a travel bubble pilot project to spur the momentum in revitalising the tourism industry, the buzzword is Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) set by the authorities.

The Langkawi Development Authority (LADA) is now focusing to implement its three-phase of Langkawi Tourism Recovery Plan 2021-2022 with MySAFE certification will be used as Certificate of Compliance to the COVID-19 SOP and Travel Quality Best Practices for hotels and resorts, lodging, travel & tours as well as food & beverage (F&B) and retail outlets.

Hence, the staff training on COVID-19 Education & Risk Assessment (CERIA) courses is a prerequisite to the success of this MySAFE Langkawi Campaign initiative, with more than 1,000 participants have signed up to date.

In the meantime, in the state of Pahang, eight of its holiday destinations are waiting for the green lights from the National Security Council (NSC) to welcome back visitors in stages with SOP, which includes Fraser’s Hill, Tioman Island, Taman Negara, Kuala Gandah National Elephant Conservation Centre, Taman Negeri Rompin, Janda Baik, Genting Highlands and Cameron Highlands.

On the other hand, Sarawak is preparing for the reopening of domestic tourism before year’s end while considering a green travel bubble to welcome international travellers from Singapore, Brunei and Indonesia by next year.

It is envisaged that Sarawak will be a leading destination for ecotourism and business events in the ASEAN region by 2030 as part of its post-COVID-19 development strategy by building upon its cultural, heritage and biodiversity to promote development and investment in the tourism sector.

While intrastate tourism involving hotels and homestays are allowed for fully vaccinated people in the states under Phase 2 of the National Recovery Plan (NRP) starting 10 August 2021, efforts are underway to ensure not only tourism front line workers are fully inoculated but also residents living in the vicinity before deciding to reopen the destinations.

However, COVID-19 restrictions may be here at least until the end of the year, and the pandemic has disrupted guided excursions which have long been at the heart of travel. But as tourism industry players are adapting to the new normal, there are numbers of people turning to virtual tours to relieve pent-up demand for travel.

Last year, in conjunction with World Tourism Day, Google Arts and Culture, for example, brought a new collection to help anyone travel digitally by choosing their perfect virtual travel with thousands of museums and cultural destinations to explore.

In Malaysia, heritage lovers can celebrate Melaka’s 13th Anniversary as UNESCO World Heritage Site by booking virtual tours to discover more of the untold stories at www.exploremalaysiavirtually.com/unesco-celebration/ until 30 September 2021. Alternatively, they can also book for virtual experience at Morten Village, the only remaining Malay riverine village in Melaka with an English name.

In addition to the virtual experience, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sabah Tourism Board has also recently paid tribute to fallen British and Australian prisoners of wars in commemoration of the Sandakan-Ranau Death Marches through a live engagement session via the Sabah, Malaysian Borneo Facebook platform to honour the sacrifice of local people and soldiers who came to liberate the nation during World War 2.

With most places locked down this past year, Malaysian cities have certainly missed us the most. But thanks to the virtual and digital events which are conquering our online world, at least we are still connected. Let’s cross our fingers and hoping that the pandemic will end, and life returns to some semblance of normality then!

 

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