Kuala Lumpur October 31 — LOCAL tourism industry players are urging Putrajaya to emulate Thailand’s reopening of borders for tourists under the new norms to kickstart the sector here.
Thailand’s decision to allow Chinese tourists under strict conditions gave them hope and enthusiasm, they told The Malaysian Insight.
Local tourism saw a small recovery during the recovery movement-control order (RMCO) period in June but then experienced a setback when Covid-19 cases re-emerged at the end of September.
Despite this, they are planning and preparing for 2021, hoping that they can work around the Covid-19 pandemic to revive the sector.
Malaysian Inbound Tourism Association (Mita) president Uzaidi Udanis said locals and tourists should learn how to coexist with the virus and not be fearful.
“At this stage, people are worried about the intensification of the pandemic. It’s important to observe how the Thai government responds to the citizens’ dissatisfaction.
“How will the government deal with the crisis and welcome tourists without spreading the virus?
“We must be prepared for this. The association has set up a committee to discuss this, which I believe our government can use as a reference.”
Uzaidi said Thailand and Singapore are role models and they’re a step ahead in attracting foreign tourists.
Thailand recently introduced the special tourist visa (STV) for the first batch of Chinese entry to visit relatives or for business activities. The second batch of tourists can travel for leisure.
Malaysian Chinese Tourism Association president Albert Tan told The Malaysian Insight that these two batches are good examples for Malaysia on how to revive the local tourism sector.
“Tourists will not choose Malaysia at this time because of the tense restrictions, where even locals cannot travel interstate.
“Therefore, we suggest the government gradually open the borders. For example, start welcoming foreign tourists to green zones or start the entry for business travellers from Singapore.
“If we wait for the pandemic to be brought under control, it will definitely hurt the country’s tourism livelihood.”
Green light for green zones
Malaysia Inbound Chinese Association (Mica) president Angie Ng said the industry anticipates the government to consider reopening the green-zone areas for international tourists.
“Our initial proposal was to allow direct flights between Penang and Taiwan. The prerequisite is that Taiwan remains safe from Covid-19 and Penang remains a green zone area for three to four months.
“Unfortunately, the plan was shelved after Penang recorded a rising number of Covid-19 cases recently.”
The association is proposing to allow international tourists to island holiday spots first, such as Langkawi.
She said the tourism industry can manage to supervise it through direct flights or boat rides, but it requires negotiation and discussions among the state governments.
“Unfortunately, Kuala Lumpur and Selangor are currently under the conditional movement-control order (CMCO). It is impossible to have departmental meetings. We simply have to wait.”
Malaysia’s borders remain closed since March after the first wave of Covid-19 pandemic, prohibiting international tourists.
Local tourism picked up a bit in June when locals started travelling internally but that too came to a halt with the third wave of Covid-19 in end September.