Open the borders earlier than Aug 31, says tourism group

The government has lifted restrictions on domestic travel but the borders remain closed.

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia’s main tourism association has welcomed the government’s lifting of the interstate travel ban, but hoped that international travel will be allowed sooner rather than later.

Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) president Tan Kok Liang said the announcement of the recovery movement control order (RMCO) was a good start as it would allow domestic tourism to resume.

However, he said any additional delays to the reopening of Malaysia’s international borders will continue to decimate the nation’s tourism industry, which employs over 3.5 million people.

“We hope the government will reassess the easing of borders sooner than August 31 to further strengthen economic activities,” he told FMT.

Tan Kok Liang

Tan also said he hoped that the Sabah and Sarawak state governments will not impose additional restrictions, such as a requirement for health certificates for tourists.

He said the industry has already been preparing for the reopening of the sector with various health and safety protocols and procedures already in place.

This includes the disinfection of tour vehicles, sanitisation of baggage, recording passengers’ temperatures as well as halving seating capacities for tour buses to ensure physical distancing. Eight-seater vans will only be allowed to carry four passengers at a time.

“The demand is weak and there is a need to boost travel confidence. Tour packages will follow a new norm which includes hiking, adventure and private tours,” he said.

He added that Matta will embark on digital fairs in September this year, departing from the usual Malaysian Travel Fair (MTF) it holds annually.

Malaysian Budget Hotel Association president Emmy Suraya Hussein told FMT that the RMCO was good news for the industry as domestic travel is opened.

She told FMT that many guests who stayed at budget hotels were those on business trips, aside from the usual clientele of holiday-makers.

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced the RMCO yesterday, which will allow interstate travel and domestic tourism activities from June 10 onwards.

Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah had also said yesterday that the country’s borders could be reopened after Aug 31 if the number of Covid-19 infections remains low during the RMCO.

Malaysians have not been allowed to travel overseas since the MCO came into effect on March 18 while foreigners have also not been allowed into the country during this period.

Nancy Shukri

The government’s announcement that the domestic tourism sector can resume operations starting June 10 will help the country accelerate its economic recovery phase, according to tourism minister Nancy Shukri.

She said the lifting of restrictions on inter-state travel would boost domestic tourism and can help the country accelerate the economic recovery phase, because tourism involves others such as hotels and other tourist accommodation, transport, restaurants and tourist guides.

Malaysian Association of Tour Agency president Mohd Khalid Harun said the move would increase consumer demand, especially in the transport and food sectors, while helping small and medium-sized industry operators who had been adversely affected by the Covid-19 outbreak.

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