Langkawi all set to welcome back visitors

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PETALING JAYA: Langkawi tourism players are eager and prepared for the start of the travel bubble programme on Sept 16, according to several travel and tourism bodies.

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Malaysian Inbound Tourism Association (MITA) president Uzaidi Udanis said they are ironing out last-minute preparations in anticipation of the return of tourists.

“The products are ready but there are some minor last-minute details. Car rentals need to renew their road tax, chalets need landscaping. Some small maintenance is needed to make sure all is in order,” he said, adding that Langkawi has not had tourists since March 2020.

Uzaidi said the association had been trying to get as many businesses trained and certified for compliance with government SOPs(standard operating procedures).

“We don’t want any clusters from tourist groups. We will also encourage the tourists to give feedback to our call centre if there are any complaints on SOPs.”

He said the industry players were ready with new products to cater to domestic tourists, who may look for attractions or activities that are more private or secluded or done outdoors because of the pandemic.

Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) chief executive officer Yap Lip Seng said the travel bubble initiative in Langkawi was a good start “as tourism needs to restart somehow and somewhere”.

However, learning from Phuket’s sandbox project to restart tourism, he said, the initiative is not meant to be fool-proof, and the SOPs would not necessarily guarantee zero Covid-19 cases.

“There must be an acceptable threshold percentage for Covid-19 cases from the project. Contingency measures must be prepared in advance to deal with it to minimise local risks. This is the only way to move forward,” he said.

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Yap said the SOPs and mechanisms must be clear. “We cannot afford any backtracking, but they can be improved and enhanced along the way.”

Given the current sentiments, he said, hotels must brace themselves for a slow period during the initial stages of the project.

Overall, he added, the initiative may provide a lifeline to the industry that could no longer sustain purely on the government.

Mohd Yusin Mohd Yatim, of the Malaysian Association of Tour & Travel Agents (MATTA) Kedah chapter, also said tourism players in Langkawi were ready to reopen and were waiting for guidelines from the tourism, arts and culture ministry.

He said the Langkawi Development Authority (LADA) had conducted courses for the tourism and food and beverage sectors with emphasis on strict adherence to SOPs.

“We look forward to receiving fully vaccinated domestic guests who have completed 14 days from their second vaccine shot, he said, adding that all parties must ensure that transactions were carried out online.

Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced yesterday the special committee meeting on pandemic management had decided to start the pilot travel bubble programme on the island from Sept 16 for fully vaccinated domestic tourists.-FMT