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Not just for fun: Behind the tourist surge to Langkawi

Psychologists say many have been under pressure since the start of the pandemic and need a way to release their stress.

Azzman Abdul Jamal
3 minute read
Tourists stroll along Pantai Cenai in Langkawi on Sept 16, the day the resort island reopened to domestic visitors following closures due to restrictions to halt the spread of Covid-19. Photo: AFP
Tourists stroll along Pantai Cenai in Langkawi on Sept 16, the day the resort island reopened to domestic visitors following closures due to restrictions to halt the spread of Covid-19. Photo: AFP

The crowds of visitors who have been flocking to Langkawi since the resort island reopened to domestic tourists under a pilot travel bubble programme this month indicate more than just a population restless for a holiday, a psychologist says.

Speaking to MalaysiaNow, Fauziah Sa’ad from Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris said heading to Langkawi is in fact a way to escape the stress of having been cooped up for months under Covid-19 health measures.

She said humans by nature need to live freely – circumstances which the various forms of lockdown over the past year and a half have obstructed.

“We are social beings,” added Fauziah. “The way I see it, many want to visit Langkawi not just for a holiday – they also want to release their stress. Being confined at home for a long time is quite stressful.”

She also welcomed Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s recent comment that lockdowns are no longer an appropriate measure to take, saying such moves could jeopardise the people’s mental health.

MalaysiaNow previously reported that hotels and resorts in Langkawi had received thousands of bookings following the government’s announcement the resort island would reopen to visitors as part of a travel bubble scheme to restart the tourism industry.

The Langkawi Tourism Association said hotels registered with it had received some 6,000 bookings, and that it expected to make about RM24 million in the first three days from Sept 16 with the arrival of some 24,000 tourists.

Despite the daily caseloads which have remained in the five-figure range, topping 10,000 new infections each day, tour operators in Langkawi have been swamped with visitors to the point where they have reportedly been forced to turn down bookings in order to comply with the 50% capacity limit for premises.

Fauziah said financial issues are just one of the problems facing the people, many of whom suffered a loss or reduction in income due to the pandemic.

“We are also juggling many things at the same time – family, work and personal matters all overlap.

“For instance, as we are working, we also need to ensure that our children are following their classes online.”

She said such things would add to the pressure on people to the point where it affects their concentration and ultimately their performance at work.

Domestic abuse, suicides

Fauziah said the stress of being confined at home is also a factor in the recent spike of domestic abuse and suicide cases.

Women, Family and Community Development Minister Rina Harun told the Dewan Rakyat last week that 9,015 cases of domestic abuse had been reported from the time the movement control order (MCO) was implemented in March 202 up until August.

The health ministry meanwhile said some 638 suicide cases were recorded from January to July, an increase of 143% from the same period the year before.

Mohamed Fadzil Che Din, a psychologist at the National Defence University of Malaysia, said an inability to control emotions could cause a person to behave in an aggressive manner.

“The role of emotions is to ensure that we function as human beings,” he told MalaysiaNow. “When we interact, we need stable emotions.

“This is why it is dangerous if someone is emotionally disturbed,” he added. “He or she could behave aggressively instead of functioning as a human being.”

He said awareness is still low about the problem of emotional disorders and how to deal with it.

He said Malaysia lacks a structured curriculum to manage this problem which is often misunderstood as a mental illness.

“The best way to tackle emotional disorders is through a psychosocial approach, that is to use the psychological elements in society,” he said.

“Discussions and counselling are enough to help without a psychiatric approach. The MCO is a social issue but many are confused and consider it a mental issue.”

He added that cases of emotional disorder should be managed by the women, family and community development ministry, not the health ministry.

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