Upbeat over travel bubble approach

TOURISM stakeholders like travel agents and tourist guides welcome the travel bubble concept, describing it as a good move to restart the inbound tourism sector.

Tour guide Mirza Shahar, who has been offering guided tours for the past two years, lauded the initiative.

"It's time to reopen this sector if the countries involved are providing accurate statistics of their Covid-19 cases and are in the green zone with strict compliance of the standard operating procedure (SOP).

"We have to adapt to the new normal and we cannot impose travel restrictions for too long.

"People need to travel for certain purposes. As long as the countries involved follow the SOP, it should be okay," she said.

Mirza said that allowing tourists from other countries would help tour guides tremendously.

The idea behind a travel bubble concept is that if two countries have reduced their number of Covid-19 cases, thus creating a bubble, then citizens who live inside one bubble can enter another bubble country without having to be quarantined.

It was reported that Malaysia has begun discussions with six 'green' countries - Singapore, Brunei, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea - that it would like to open its borders post-Covid-19.

However, health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said any sort of agreement between Malaysia and those countries must be mutual.

Penang Tourist Guides Association president Chin Poh Chin welcomed the initiative, saying it would augur well for the travel industry.

"The proposed travel bubble approach between Malaysia and the other green zone countries will result in more two-way tourist traffic.

"For a start, this bubble initiative is good for neighbouring countries such as Thailand and Singapore as the flying time to our country is short," she said.

Chin said she hoped cruise ships would be allowed to operate soon, adding that the tourist guides should instill confidence in travellers by carefully following the SOP.

"We must be very careful so that there will be no new outbreaks caused by travellers.

"We have to ensure the entry point is well taken care of by the health authorities," she said. Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) Penang chapter chairman Khoo Boo Lim said the travel bubble with other green zone countries was something to look forward to.

"It will ignite the hospitality industry as we welcome back international travellers in both the leisure and corporate segments.

"I think we can expect lower air fares once the airlines start flying again.

"Airport will be back in action and all related industries will benefit, especially the employment market."

Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) president Datuk Tan Kok Liang said the move would be good.

"There will be a slight recovery for the Malaysian economy if it is implemented.

"The bubble concept should start with business travel and then to medical tourism and finally to leisure travel.

"I feel the arrangements should be reciprocated as Malaysia is one of the top countries in the world in containing the Covid-19 outbreak.

"We should be well-accepted by other countries as we now have a low number of reported Covid-19 cases," he said.

Penang tourism development, arts, culture and heritage committee chairman Yeoh Soon Hin expressed his support for the opening of international borders with 'green' countries.

"I had earlier proposed the travel bubble approach in order to gradually restart the international travel and tourism industries during the new norm.

"This careful approach is to ensure that our efforts in controlling Covid-19 are sustained," he said.