After nearly a year of inactivity due to border controls and travel restrictions thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, tour operators have found a second wind in the government’s decision to allow the resumption of domestic tourism among states under the recovery movement control order (RMCO).
The green light for travel through licensed tour operators, seen as the first step towards the revival of the tourism industry following the latest string of lockdowns which began in January, has seen tour agencies coming back to life in the hope of recuperating some of the losses suffered so far.
Siti Noraishah Ahmad, from Seroja Anggerik Travel & Tours, is now busy studying the SOPs laid out by the National Security Council to ensure that the packages offered by the agency are in line with government directives.
“There are several SOPs that need to be followed, including getting police approval.
“This makes us take seriously the health of our customers, whom we hope will also be honest in sharing details on their health,” she told MalaysiaNow.
She said her agency is currently focused on offering group packages capped at 10 to 20 people.
“For now, we will offer packages for small groups, with more privacy because we understand that approval has just recently been given,” she added.
“And travel is only allowed between states under RMCO.”
Senior Minister for Security Ismail Sabri Yaakob said the green light under the targeted travel bubble programme, beginning March 10, would be contingent on adherence to SOPs including the requirement to go through registered travel agencies under the tourism, arts and culture ministry.
Likewise, only vehicles such as tour buses registered with the ministry are allowed, with travel in privately owned vehicles still prohibited.
Perlis, Langkawi, Terengganu, Pahang, Melaka and Sabah were under RMCO as of March 10.
N Subramaniam, president of the Malaysian Association of Hotels, said the latest development was a good sign for the tourism industry despite the continued restrictions on interstate travel across the rest of the country.
“We understand the government’s care in trying to curb Covid-19 infections with this move,” he told MalaysiaNow.
He also suggested that permission be given to those with confirmation of hotel bookings to travel by plane to states under RMCO.
He said hotel managements would also prioritise safety and cleanliness, including those under the association.
The tourism, arts and culture ministry recently voiced hope that tourists would adhere to the SOPs set by the government to curb the spread of Covid-19.
“Let us work together and continue praying that the tourism industry and local culture no longer need to go through hard times due to the closure of activities, because this has a negative impact on the economic chain,” its minister Nancy Shukri said in a statement.
She also thanked the government for allowing live events with audiences in states under RMCO and conditional MCO, subject to strict SOPs.