Malaysia sets stage for domestic tourism recovery

Malaysia hotels and tourism players are gearing up to welcome domestic travellers again, as the country will allow interstate travel from Wednesday under the recovery movement control order (RMCO).

From June 10 to August 31, the RMCO replaces the country’s conditional movement control order (CMCO), and will see the easing of interstate travel, as well as meetings and workshops, under strict health protocols. However, the country’s borders will remain shut.

Malaysia embarks on a new recovery phase, which will see a phased reopening of majority of business activities

Under the RMCO, museums, indoor busking and recreational fishing activities will be allowed to commence, but pubs, nightclubs, theme parks, karaoke centres, foot reflexology centres, sporting events with a large number of spectators in stadiums, swimming in public pools and contact sports are still banned.

Making the announcement in a televised broadcast on Sunday, prime minister, Muhyiddin Yassin, said the RMCO will feature more lenient restrictions and formed part of the country’s exit strategy.

The RMCO will be based on seven strategies: enhanced public health, legislation and enforcement, enhanced border control, reopening of all sectors of the economy, embracing the new normal, community responsibility empowerment, and protection of risk groups.

These strategies will be executed by the Special Ministerial Committee on the implementation of the RMCO.

Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) CEO, Yap Lip Seng, said the move is significant for the tourism industry as it marks the beginning of the resumption of domestic travel, which will pave the way to industry recovery.

He added: “Tourism stakeholders had long prepared for this day to come, particularly the hotel industry with its very own guidelines to ensure a clean and safe stay for tourists and guests alike.”

On May 1, MAH published its base guidelines for hotels, designed to steer hotels into the new norm of hotel operations in the post-Covid era, benchmarked against Ministry of Health’s requirements and best practices from other countries and major hotel chains around the world.

Entering the RMCO, Yap said the industry is expecting a pick up in not only leisure travel but also business travellers. Although hotels generally are investing and spending more in compliance to SOPs, many are rolling back room rates, offering attractive packages and promotions for direct bookings on their websites, according to Yap.

Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents president, KL Tan, said the easing of restrictions to allow interstate travel “could help rejuvenate economic activities in the value chain”.

He added: “The service industry is a significant revenue earner and employment provider, so this will minimise retrenchment in the tourism industry.”

Tan hoped the state governments of Sabah and Sarawak would not impose additional restrictions on domestic travellers from other states, such as a requirement for health certificates.

To pave the way for faster recovery, he also hoped the government would consider gradually opening up the country’s borders to allow tourists from low-risk countries such as Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei and Australia.

Tan said delaying the opening up of international borders will decimate the country’s tourism industry, which employs more than 3.5 million people.

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

Malaysian Inbound Tourism Association president, Uzaidi Udanis, shared that as the forestry department remains closed, activities such as jungle trekking, white water rafting and camping are still not allowed.

Expressing hopes that the forestry department will soon establish SOPs so that ecotourism activities can resume, he said that ecotourism is the country’s strength and gives it an advantage over other nations.

“We believe (ecotourism) activities are very safe, and since tour operators have the contact details of clients, contact tracing can be easily done, if required.”

The association is also in talks with an insurance company to obtain Covid-19 protection for its members’ guests, Uzaidi shared, adding that the coverage “will give more confidence for locals to travel domestically”.

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