Growing fears over the emerging Omicron variant is threatening the budding recovery of outbound travel in Malaysia, as countries around the world rush to impose fresh travel restrictions amid global alarm.
Cooper Huang, CEO, Malaysian Harmony Tours and Travel, said the agency has postponed indefinitely the launch of new tours to Thailand this month as he monitors developments of the Omicron variant, which has been deemed to be potentially more contagious than prior variants.
He noted that the tightening of border restrictions by countries in response to Omicron and the unpredictability of changing policies are putting the brakes on leisure travel. He cited the example of Japan, which joined Israel in shutting its borders to foreigners on Monday (November 29) to guard against the variant.
Angelica Chan, country market manager, Traveloka, shared that outbound travel demand in Malaysia had been weak to begin with, and the Omicron variant has only added to the fears of travellers. She said that as little is known about the new variant at this stage, many people are adopting a wait-and-see attitude before planning overseas holidays.
She said Malaysians making bookings on Traveloka are mainly those travelling to visit family overseas, rather than for leisure purposes.
According to a European airline source, people are travelling for essential reasons, and not for leisure or holidays. The continent is currently battling a fresh wave of Covid-19 infections and countries such as Austria has extended their lockdown to December 11.