Sunday, March 7, 2021

Putrajaya prepares to jump-start domestic tourism as pandemic stubbornly lingers

The government will ease travel from green zones to tourist destinations nationwide.

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Fearing a complete wipe-out of the country’s tourism industry as the Covid-19 crisis appears set to continue well into next year, government leaders are considering jump-starting the industry by allowing more Malaysians to travel to domestic destinations.

MalaysiaNow understands that high-level talks in recent days on tourism, which bore the brunt of the various pandemic-related lockdowns throughout the country, discussed easing restrictions on travelling to these sites for those in green zones without need for clearance from the local police.

It is believed that the tourism, arts and culture ministry has also come up with a set of SOPs for such a plan, which would open travel for those residing in green zones to other parts of the country.

“However, the easing of restrictions would only apply for those travelling under tour agencies,” a government source told MalaysiaNow.

“Essentially, the plan is to allow travel not only within green zones, but also to states where the conditional movement control order (CMCO) has been declared.”

MalaysiaNow also understands that the Cabinet and senior health officials were briefed on the plan by Nancy Shukri, the tourism minister.

Travellers are split into three categories: those in green zone states travelling within the same state, those travelling to other green zone states, and those heading to destinations where some form of MCO is in place.

The majority of states are under CMCO, which restricts non-essential cross-border and outstation travel.

While tourist attractions are spread evenly across the nation, some of the most popular destinations are located in the rural parts of the peninsula, with beaches and coastal areas a natural choice.

The tourism and hospitality industries were among the first to be ravaged by the pandemic following the grounding of flights into the country, and were further impacted when the MCO was declared in March.

A window of hope was seen in the middle of the year when the lockdown was eased, with many hotels and tourist destinations reporting capacity crowds of local travellers.

But the respite was short-lived, with a fierce spike in new cases since September seeing authorities report four-digit figures on a daily basis.

Last week, the Malaysia Budget Hotel Association warned that a continuation of the CMCO could force at least 40 hotels in major cities to close, and leave some 2,000 people jobless.

“There is no other way. Hotel operators cannot afford the expenses including employee salaries. Just imagine, even to get a one-night booking (for a room) is difficult. How can we survive in a month or two?” the association’s president Emmy Suraya Hussein was quoted as saying by Bernama.

The same source told MalaysiaNow that all zones labelled as yellow, orange and red would remain off-limits to travellers.

It is believed that the proposal to ease restrictions on tourism has been well received by the police and other enforcement authorities.

Under the proposal, tourists must produce personal identification documents, proof of accommodation bookings, as well as registration with MySejahtera, Putrajaya’s app to track people’s movements to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

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