GEORGE TOWN: The tourism industry has welcomed the relaxed SOPs for foreign travellers entering the country from next month, saying the move would reinvigorate the industry.
Today, the government announced that vaccinated travellers could enter the country without Covid-19 tests from May 1. It said it was also doing away with the insurance coverage requirement for such travellers.
Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) chief Tan Kok Liang said the government’s move was in line with current international best practices as the worst of Covid-19 appeared to be over.
He added that despite borders being reopened, the SOPs required of travellers, including pre-departure and post-arrival tests and other measures, had deterred many foreigners from choosing Malaysia as a holiday destination.
“One of the reasons we are not seeing many tourists coming in is due to the burdensome SOPs. They are worried if they are positive for Covid-19, they will incur more costs.
“The latest move will further attract foreign tourists, similar to practices in Europe, India, Singapore and Australia,” he told FMT.
Tan said requiring foreign tourists to fill up travel cards on arrival via MySejahtera was an acceptable procedure, as most countries were going paperless.
Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) board member Eugene Dass said the relaxation of SOPs would further revive the country’s tourism and hospitality industry.
He said with Covid-19 cases on a downward trend, the country appeared to be on the right track to bringing back tourists to boost the local economy.
“We, however, remain vigilant as hotel guests are required to remain masked up for their safety,” the Kedah and Perlis MAH chapter chairman told FMT.
Malaysian Budget Hotel Association chief Emmy Suraya Hussein said although the borders reopened on April 1, there had been very few foreigners entering the country.
She said the long list of SOPs, including testing before departure and after arrival, was a critical reason for tourists shying away from Malaysia and going to neighbouring countries that had relaxed their entry rules.
“With the relaxation, we hope the tourist numbers will increase,” she said.
Malaysian Inbound Tourism Association chief Uzaidi Udanis said with the continued support by the government in terms of fuel subsidies, the tourism industry could remain competitive in the long run.
He said while other countries had opened up their borders and relaxed their entry rules, inflation had also hit them.
“The status quo on government aid and subsidies should continue so we remain competitive in the global travel market,” he said.
Uzaidi said the glitches related to the MySejahtera app must also be fixed as some travellers had trouble downloading the app in their home countries.