THE public and private sectors need to ramp up collaborations and strategise on how to prepare for border reopening in reviving the economy after months of Covid-19 restrictions.

Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) honorary secretary-general Nigel Wong said the recovery phase required greater international coordination among governments, multilateral institutions and businesses to reopen borders, as well as boost tourism and its subsectors.

He said although the rate of Covid-19 infection in the country was on the decline, a full recovery of tourism was still a distance away.

“It will still take time for this sector and its sub-sectors to recover given the current public sentiment concerning the pandemic and various economic challenges the country is facing.

“The reopening of sub-sectors is a crucial part towards the eventual recovery of the sector.

“However, we expect a slow start, especially on the Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE), and travel and trade fairs,” he said.

Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob had on June 26 announced that the government allowed the reopening of three tourism subsectors from July 1, namely MICE, travel and trip fairs, and spa, wellness and reflexology centres.

For MICE and travel and trip fairs, the standard operating procedures included limiting gatherings to 250 people at a time.

Wong said the domestic market might start to pick up only once confidence in air travel was restored.

For tourism to recover, he said, the country needed to start opening up borders between safezones, such as by establishing “travel bubbles” between states categorised as low risk or “green” with regard to Covid-19 infections and encouraging inbound business and leisure traffic.

“(We need to look at) how we can quickly move to recapture the fiercely-contested inbound market share.

“We should promote Malaysia as a safe destination to the world, one that has the right infrastructure in place to handle the current crisis and a proven track record to back our claim.

“Given that the tourism sector requires time to recover, some strategies in place may need to be extended, such as the loan moratorium by banks and other financial assistance
when it comes to preserving the tourism workforce,” he added.

Malaysia had on Friday called on Asean governments to establish “travel bubbles” between member states to shore up investments and create jobs in the regional bloc.

The “green bubble” or “green lane” concept involved easing travel restrictions between countries with low rates of Covid-19 infection.

Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the 10 members of the regional grouping might open up their borders in the near future, allowing intra-Asean tourism to continue in the post Covid-19 period, which would deliver a much-needed financial boost to members’ economies.