LANGKAWI: Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin was accurate in his assessment that the tourism sector will take up to four years to recover from the effects of Covid-19, said Langkawi Businesses Association deputy president Datuk Issac Alexander.
“As such, tourism authorities need to fast track efforts to produce more travel bubbles for regions and nations which have relatively contained the Covid-19 pandemic on their own terms,” he said.
“Doing so can help Malaysia regain its momentum for the industry faster after the pandemic crippled the tourism sector.”
He agreed with the prime minister’s assessment that the industry would take that amount of time to recover.
“But we may recover by between three and four years. A lot depends on how the public and private sectors can pool resources to galvanise the industry, which is a major component of our economy,” he said.
He spoke of pursuing travel bubbles among countries in the region such as Australia and New Zealand, in addition to our closest Asean neighbours which, like Malaysia, have managed to keep the virus effectively in check.
He said the creation of travel bubbles will encourage people in such areas to travel more and tap investment opportunities so that tourism can recover faster.
“But as it is a new virus, we also need to be wary of possible second or third waves of infections. This is why our vigilance is important here.”
There were signs tourism was gradually recovering in prime destinations such as Penang, Malacca and Langkawi, but more needs to be done to return to levels before Covid-19 struck the global economy.
Alexander said he was asked by tourism authorities to help formulate strategies for maritime leisure activities within the northern region.
It has been mooted that Malaysia share travel bubble arrangements with Singapore and Thailand as well as Australia and New Zealand before moving on to Japan, South Korea and India.
The concept allows visitors from such nations to enjoy a limited time in quarantine upon arrival so they can spend longer periods visiting the country, while Malaysians can travel to the selected bubble member nations more easily.
Meanwhile, the consul-general of Indonesia in Penang, Bambang Suharta, expressed hope that more Indonesians would visit Penang once the pandemic is contained on both sides.
Indonesia continues to struggle with the virus owing to its huge population base, with some 3,036 fatalities recorded so far.
Indonesians make up the most number of patients in the medical tourism sector in Penang.
Bambang was speaking after paying a courtesy call to state executive councillor in charge of tourism, Yeoh Soon Hin, at the latter’s office in Komtar.
“About 450,000 tourists from Indonesia visited Penang annually in the past few years,” he added.
There are proposals that Indonesians be allowed to return for medical services in August if they undergo quarantine at the point of entry here.