TOURISM players want the government to reopen other island destinations under the travel bubble initiative after it was introduced in Langkawi earlier this week.
Langkawi witnessed the pilot run of the travel bubble project, receiving its first batch of tourists on September 16 under strict health protocols.
Following that, industry players said the government should now reopen the popular holiday destination islands of Pangkor, Tioman and Redang.
The reopening of these popular islands would also prevent tourists from flocking to Langkawi which would increase the risk of Covid-19 transmission, they added.
Malaysian Inbound Tourism Association (MITA) president Uzaidi Udanis said tour operators had given their suggestions to director-general of health Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah during a meeting on September 15.
He said Noor Hisham provided them with some updates on the status of the epidemic and had urged tour operators to ensure tourists always complied with standard operating procedure (SOP).
Uzaidi added that Noor Hisham noted that a large number of people had visited beaches, waterfalls and other recreational places in Selangor as soon as the state moved to phase 2 of the national recovery plan.
Noor Hisham was also concerned that many had taken off their face masks while having picnics by the waterfall, he said.
“Malaysia is different from Europe and the United States. The US and European countries are moving towards endemicity, while Malaysia wants to break the chain of transmission,” said Uzaidi.
“To strike a balance, the industry is suggesting that the islands on the east coast be opened up,” he said.
However, due to the upcoming monsoon season, the islands in the East coast may not be suitable for immediate re-opening.
Therefore, he suggested that islands such as Redang be open for a month. Langkawi, meanwhile, can be visited all year round.
“The tourism industry was told that the government’s consideration was to use Langkawi as a pilot project. If the opening of tourism does not cause an outbreak, more island tours can be opened.
“We believe that the east coast islands can be opened. There is only one month left before the monsoon season starts. It should be opened for that one month to allow the islanders to earn a living. Many of them rely on tourism for their livelihood and have had no income at all for the past 20 months,” he said.