KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 26 — Tourism Malaysia is considering travel bubbles as a means to bolster the floundering local tourism industry badly hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.
During an interview with RTM’s Bicara Naratif last night, its director-general Datuk Musa Yusof stated that he is hopeful that cross-border travel for leisure will begin in stages sometime in the first quarter of 2021, provided the Covid-19 situation in Malaysia remains under control.
“From the tourism point of view, hopefully, we should see some movement by the first quarter of next year. This is what I mean by green travel bubbles.
“As an example, Malaysia and Singapore have allowed cross-border travel already, but for essential services only, and not for leisure yet. If this goes well, and no untoward issues arise, God willing, leisure [travel] will begin,” he said.
However, Musa elaborated that Tourism Malaysia is keen on introducing cross-border travel with the country’s immediate Asean neighbours rather than opening up to all international visitors.
This is to further mitigate any potential imported cases of Covid-19, he added.
“For our research, we looked at countries within the region, which is Asean nations. Asean alone has some 600 million people and is a major contributor to tourists coming to our country.
“What we mean by cross-border tourism is situations where one doesn’t necessarily have to get on a plane to travel here. We are looking at countries such as Singapore, Brunei, Thailand, and even Indonesia.
“These are the four nations that we are examining and reviewing as to whether travel can be allowed,’’ he said.
Last month, Malaysia and Singapore agreed to the Reciprocal Green Lane (RGL) and Periodic Commuting Arrangement (PCA).
The RGL is to allow cross-border travel for essential business and official purposes, while the PCA is to enable Singapore and Malaysia residents, who hold long-term immigration passes for business and work purposes in the other country, to enter that country for work.
Musa pointed out that Singapore alone contributes 65 per cent of Malaysia’s incoming tourists.
He also revealed that from the period of January 2020 to June 2020, global tourism plunged by 65 per cent, and fell by 93 per cent in June alone.
For Malaysia, in the same six-month period, tourism was down by 68.2 per cent. However, the saving grace was the strong tourist arrivals in January and February of this year, said Musa.
He said among Tourism Malaysia’s initiatives were leveraging on the country’s top-notch management of the Covid-19 outbreak and promoting the country as a safe destination for travellers.