The holiday island of Langkawi is bracing for the arrival of thousands of tourists as Malaysians eager for a break from pandemic restrictions begin planning for a good dose of sun, sea and sand after months of virus lockdown.
MalaysiaNow understands that hotels and resorts have already received thousands of bookings following the government’s announcement that Langkawi would reopen to visitors as part of a travel bubble scheme to restart the tourism industry.
The Langkawi Tourism Association (LTA) said hotels registered with it have received some 6,000 bookings, and expects to make about RM24 million in the first three days.
“We estimate some 24,000 tourists will come in the first three days after Sept 16,” said the association’s CEO Zainudin Kadir, referring to the date set by Putrajaya for the reopening of the resort island.
Langkawi was closed off to visitors early this year after the detection of tourism-linked clusters.
Zainudin reckons the island has suffered losses of more than RM1 billion since then.
But while tourism operators are eager to begin welcoming back visitors, he said those who come to the island must not lie about their vaccination status.
Only tourists who have been fully vaccinated are allowed to visit Langkawi, and entrance checks will be strict.
Zainudin said the entrance at the jetty and the airport would be tightly monitored to make sure that only those who have completed their vaccination are allowed in.
“Tourists must have completed 14 days since receiving their second jab,” he said.
“If anyone is found to have flouted this rule, they will not be allowed to enter. We will tell them to turn back.”
Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced last week that Langkawi had been chosen as a pilot project for the travel bubble programme.
Zainudin said those looking for their first getaway in months could make hotel reservations and enter the island through the Langkawi International Airport or the Kuala Perlis jetty.
The Kuala Kedah jetty remains closed for now due to the implementation of enhanced movement control order in the area, scheduled to end on Sept 19.
Zainudin said there would be no room for compromise, even if tourists beg to be let in.
“We will conduct screening tests and temperature checks using infrared scanners,” he said.
“Anyone who has a high temperature will be barred from entering as well.”
The LTA will also station squads at entrances as well as resorts to ensure that tourists comply with the SOPs, especially on maintaining a safe distance.
No limit has been set on the number of tourists allowed into the island, but resorts must cap their visitors at 50% of their premise capacity.
Such measures are a far cry from pre-pandemic times when hotels and homestays would be packed with tourists, especially during peak season.
The idea of being constantly monitored may also be a turn-off for some eager to leave the pandemic behind.
But for now, this appears to be the new norm for tourism, and most would-be travellers appear undaunted.
The association anticipates the addition of extra flights to the island once the programme begins, as families flock to Langkawi’s famous beaches for a breath of fresh air. Even children will be allowed in as long as the rest of their family have been fully jabbed.
Their long break finally over, hotel operators and service providers have been brushing up on their customer relations skills and have all attended a course on how to receive visitors again under Covid-19 restrictions.
All that’s needed now is for the tourists to begin arriving.