Sarawak tour, travel agencies excited about lifting of ban on interstate travel

Travellers are seen at Kuching International Airport. — Picture by Roystein Emmor via Borneo Post Online
Travellers are seen at Kuching International Airport. — Picture by Roystein Emmor via Borneo Post Online

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KUCHING, Oct 12 — Many operators of tour and travel agencies are excited about the government’s decision to lift the interstate travel ban.

In this regard, they expect an influx of visitors coming in to Sarawak, especially those from West Malaysia and Sabah.

Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agencies (Matta) Sarawak Chapter deputy chairman Oscar Choo commented that visitors from West Malaysia love to visit places in the state especially Kuching, adding that the state is like a ‘getaway’ place for them.

“Just like how Langkawi is doing right now, tourism is booming and we foresee the influx of West Malaysians coming in to Sarawak.

“However, there must be enough flights to cater for the demand,” he told The Borneo Post when contacted yesterday.

In an effort to curb further spread of Covid-19 among the travellers as well as the agencies’ staff members, Choo said every tourism industry member is to strictly abide by the standard operating procedure (SOP) for reopening the tourism sector issued by the state Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture.

Choo, who is also CPH Travel director of operations, added that the visitors coming in to the state must also abide by the requirements in the SOP before coming in to Sarawak such as having completed their vaccinations.

“As a responsible travel agent, I would also need to ensure (the safety of) our team  —  our guides, drivers and other assets as anyone of them may be in contact with the virus.

“We will also have to shut down our business for a couple of days if one of our staff members is found positive,” he added.

Cat City Holidays managing director Mok Venia deemed the lifting of the interstate travel ban as a ‘very good sign’ as it will benefit the tourism players such as travel agencies, hotels, public transport, souvenir and handicraft shops.

Like Choo, Mok also said that there will be more West Malaysians coming in to the state and it goes the same with people from Sarawak visiting West Malaysia.

“People over here will also be going over (to West Malaysia) as they have been watching videos on social media (on tourist attractions there). So it would be wise also for the West Malaysians to do interstate travel and definitely come over here to visit us also,” she added.

Mok also said that her company will also be abiding by the existing SOPs given by the federal as well as the state government.

Association of Sarawak Inbound Agencies (Asia) secretary Chua Juan Chuan, who is also Paradesa Borneo director, said he is looking forward to receiving visitors from other states.

However, he opined that the procedures for the travellers to enter Sarawak as required by the State Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) are “a hindrance” to the travellers, adding that it is not in line with the federal government’s relaxation of its policy.

“It is a bit of a problem especially for tourists coming in for leisure and not for business purposes, because with the EnterSarawak system not working so well, and the visitors have to spend more than RM100 to get their (negative RT-PCR) tests.

“These requirements will be a big hindrance to visitors coming in from West Malaysia as well as Sabah,” he added.

Chua’s comments on entry requirement to Sarawak was shared earlier by State Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Dato Sri Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah, who questioned the need for SDMC to require those travelling to the state to still apply for permission via EnterSarawak.

Abdul Karim said it should suffice for visitors to show proof they are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and any other restrictions would serve as a hindrance to tourism.

With the interstate travel ban lifted, Chua said coming in to Sarawak is more like a ‘homecoming’ event for travellers as they will be likely visiting their relatives in the state, even those who only travel for business purposes.

However, he said the visitors will not be made up of those coming to the state for leisure purposes due to the strict entry requirements by SDMC.

SDMC in its daily update on Sunday announced that fully vaccinated individuals can enter Sarawak without police permits starting yesterday.

The statement was made following the earlier announcement by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob on the lifting of the ban on interstate travel.

However, SDMC said those coming in to the state are still required to apply for entry via EnterSarawak, submit proof of their complete vaccination status, provide a negative result of RT-PCR or Antigen test from health clinics or laboratories within three days prior to travel, as well as other related personal particulars. — Borneo Post Online

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