As of now, tourist agents and companies should start planning comprehensive packages which can be tested on local consumers
by AFIQ AZIZ / pic credit: KTMB
TOURISM players should be ready to welcome foreign arrivals once the government begins the travel bubble initiative, said Tourism Malaysia senior director for domestic and events Datuk Dr Ammar Abd Ghapar.
Ammar said although the country’s border is still closed due to Covid-19, industry players must start to plan a viable and attractive package for international receipts.
In June, the government mulled to establish a travel bubble with six green zone countries including New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Singapore and South Korea.
However, last month, Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob called off the plan as no countries in the world could declare that they are in the green zone as yet due to second wave infections.
Ammar said as of now, tourist agents and companies should start planning comprehensive packages which could be tested on the local consumers.
“Having the Covid-19 pandemic is a blessing in disguise. Psychologically, locals started to explore Malaysia and what we could offer, which is good,” he said at the flag-off of the Kembara Jajaran KTMB 2020 programme in Kuala Lumpur (KL) recently.
“Additionally, we must be prepared for bubble tourism and the readiness must be now.
“The packages and promotions that we want to market to neighbouring countries like Singapore must be done by now, while waiting for the government to resume with the plan,” he added.
Also present at the event was Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd (KTMB) chief for intercity services Azfar Zakariya.
Through the four-day programme, the members of the media were taken to have experiential tourism from KL to Kelantan via KTMB trains.
Also known as “real tourism”, Ammar said Tourism Malaysia and KTMB will work with the industry players to workout attractive packages in wooing local travellers.
“People travel less via trains in Malaysia, unlike in Korea and Japan. So, we hope with the new and creative packages, we can offer them attractive experiential tourism.
“Taking trains in Malaysia would become something that Malaysians could try. We can explore new ideas through this concept,” he added.
Malaysia is supposed to woo more than 30 million tourists this year, with a target to register RM100 billion of receipt, mainly from China.
However, the Covid-19 pandemic originating from the mainland had caused lockdowns in most countries in the world. Malaysia enforced the Movement Control Order (MCO) in March and Recovery MCO in June, dragging the tourism receipts down to RM12.5 billion in the first half this year, 69.8% down compared to RM41.6 billion for the same period last year.
The number of tourists registered also slumped to 4.25 million from 13.3 million in the period of January until June 2019.
Meanwhile, KTMB strategic communication head Ahmad Asri Kalbi said the KTMB intercity service at the east coast has been a vital connector for major towns namely Gemas, Bahau, Mentakab, Jerantut, Kuala Lipis, Gua Musang, Dabong, Kuala Krai, Tanah Merah, Pasir Mas and Kota Baru.
The route also covers intercity shuttle services between small villages in Kelantan, which is the mode of transport for the villages every day.
“In some rural areas in the east coast, the train is the main transportation mode for commuters to travel between their home and working place.
“This includes teachers and students who fully rely on train services to school every day. More than 200 students use this train every day,” he said.
Ahmad Asri added that KTMB charges as low as RM8 a month for students, making it the only facility that is affordable and efficient among those who live in the traditional villages in Kelantan.
The eastern region line is still using the conventional locomotive trains powered by diesel.
Soon, KTMB is expected to roll out the Diesel Multiple Unit locomotive which can run at an average speed of 100km per hour compared to the current 50km to 60km per hour.
The 13 units of DMU trains, which worth RM380 million and purchased from China, are currently under the testing phase, Ahmad Asri said.
Upgrading works on the rail tracks are also being carried out.