The Malaysian government’s planned October 1 reopening of Melaka, Genting Highlands and Tioman Island to fully vaccinated domestic tourists has been met with cautious optimism by the travel trade who says precautions need to be ramped up ahead of reopening to avoid a further rise in Covid-19 cases.
Despite having undergone three lockdowns during this pandemic, the number of Covid-19 cases in the country remain high, with 15,759 new infections reported on Tuesday (September 21). Meanwhile, the ICU bed usage due to Covid stands at 100 per cent in Perlis and more than 90 per cent in Penang, Terengganu, Kelantan, Johor and Sarawak.
On Tuesday, minister of tourism, arts and culture, Nancy Shukri, announced that the ministry’s proposal to reopen the three destinations from October 1 is still pending approval from the Special Committee on Covid-19 Pandemic Management. She added that the ministry is fine-tuning the SOPs on reopening tourist destinations on the mainland.
Malaysian Inbound Tourism Association deputy president, Mint Leong, said it is necessary for the authorities to conduct training on the SOPs for all business stakeholders in the three destinations prior to reopening.
She elaborated: “They should know how to manage the (tourist) flows without causing bottlenecks and what to do in the event a person tests positive for Covid-19.
“The big players in Genting have the manpower and experience in handling big groups of people. They would know how to manage domestic tourists with very tight SOPs in place. But what about the many SMEs in Tioman Island and Melaka – are they ready to reopen?”
She further questioned as to how the government plans to enforce the SOPs in public spaces such as beaches, including checking of body temperature and vaccination status, as well as the handling of positive Covid-19 cases.
Leong suggested instead of opening up the three destinations as a whole, the government should adopt a more cautious approach by pilot test reopening selected areas and first restricting inbound flow to residents in the Klang Valley before expanding to other states.
Yap Sook Ling, managing director, Asian Overland Services Tours & Travel, also stressed on the importance of implementing and enforcing clearly-defined SOPs and training all stakeholders on them before reopening.
She said: “The industry cannot afford the uncertainty of suddenly shutting down again and entering into another lockdown. We have to do it correctly this time.”
Yap also emphasised the need for capacity enforcement, as well as reminders for the public to adhere to Covid protocols, which could be done by having visual boards at places of attractions and restaurants.