Cautious optimism over green bubble plan

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia’s plan to develop “green bubbles” in selected places of interest to rejuvenate tourism has been received with cautious optimism.

While stakeholders see it as a means to get their businesses back on track, others caution that Malaysia may be getting a little ahead of itself.

Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents president Datuk Tan Kok Liang said a “controlled” travel bubble involving a fixed number of people with a set itinerary will be effective in boosting tourism.

Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri(pix) announced this week that a “green bubble” strategy will be launched in Langkawi to rebuild confidence among international and domestic tourists to revive tourism.

The project, slated to kick off as early as September, is based on the assumption that 80% of the island’s population would have been vaccinated by then to achieve herd immunity.

Nancy said Langkawi has been chosen for the pilot project as it is isolated, has a small population and has only one entry and exit point.

If successful, the same initiative will be launched in Kota Kinabalu, Penang, Desaru Coast, Pulau Perhentian, Kuching, Malacca, Genting Highlands and Pulau Tioman, she added.

Rather than confine it to Langkawi, the initiative should be put in place at all chosen destinations simultaneously, Tan said.

“The tourism business in other places such as Penang and Kota Kinabalu is dying because of the effects of Covid-19.”

The government should have an alternative plan if herd immunity is not reached at the selected tourist destinations to ensure that they can still reopen for business.

Another way to help is to open the
Public-Private Partnership Industrial Covid-19 Immunisation Programme to the tourism sector. It is now confined to manufacturing and international trade, Tan added.

Public health expert Dr Victor Hoe said the green bubble plan will ensure that tourists feel safe when visiting local destinations.

“However, there must be a set of stringent standard operating procedures for people moving in and out of green zones. They have to be fully vaccinated. If all these conditions are met, the green bubble will be viable.”

Tourism and transport industry consultant Y.S. Chan said Nancy’s announcement was merely a way for her ministry to show that it is actively planning for a recovery in the tourism sector.

It comes at a time when Malaysians are still not allowed to travel freely across the country. The situation is still too unpredictable, he said.