The island resort Langkawi will finally reopen to fully vaccinated domestic tourists from 16 September, the first destination to do so in Malaysia.
Like many others in the tourism industry, Mohd Yusin Mohd Yatim of the Malaysian Association of Tour & Travel Agents Kedah chapters said association members and tourism players are looking forward to Langkawi's reopening. "We are just waiting for the SOPs from MOTAC (Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture),” he added.
However, no SOPs and mechanisms have been released yet by the government or the island's tourism authority Langkawi Development Authority (LADA).
The pilot travel bubble for the country is a timely one for Langkawi hotels and resorts, many of which have already started rolling out attractive packages and accepting bookings while recalling staff back on site, said Eugene Dass, Kedah & Perlis chapter chairman at Malaysian Association of Hotels' (MAH).
For months Langkawi hotels and resorts have been anticipating a September reopening, with many continuing to upkeep their properties while adhering to SOPs set up by MAH's Clean and Safe certification programme audited by Bureau Veritas. Many hotels already received this accreditation, while MAH has also submitted a 14-point reopening plan to LADA.
According to Dass, LADA has informed MAH that the authority will fund the cost for test kits for tourists arriving from the jetty and the airport. The tourism authority also has a training programme in place which industry players have to attend in ensuring SOP adherence once Langkawi is open.
While Langkawi's reopening plan takes cue from Thailand's Phuket Sandbox, MAH Kedah & Perlis chapter secretary Reginald T Pereira believes that restarting with the domestic market will make it easier for Langkawi to manage the ground situation, especially with the introduction of additional functions such as mobile contact tracing and tracker app.
Still, MAH’s CEO Yap Lip Seng opined that there must be an agreed and acceptable threshold percentage of Covid-19 cases and contingency plans to deal with infections.
According to Dass, the state health authorities shared that a private quarantine centre will be operating in Langkawi for visitors who were in close contact with Covid positive cases on the island and for mild infected cases.