Langkawi braces for another slowdown

Business operations to near zero again if there is a surge in Covid-19 cases on the island

by ASILA JALIL / pic by TMR FILE

BUSINESS operators in Langkawi are weary that the recent New Year’s Eve event might create a new Covid-19 cluster which could jeopardise economic activities that are about to gain momentum on the island.

The island’s business community is still abuzz with viral messages about two Instagram social media influencers who had contracted the virus after returning home after celebrating New Year in Langkawi.

“Langkawi” also became a trending topic on Twitter with an initial tweet shared by user MisyaAnuar who sought verification on the information.

The same user had received information that up to 15 individuals had been tested positive from the same group or event.

The social media influencer, Harris Anuar was confirmed positive for the virus after his first screening on Jan 3, 2021.

MBH Utara founder Mahizan Hussin said the lifting of interstate travel restrictions in December had given hope among the island community when businesses started to pick up after almost 10 months of dry spell.

Mahizan’s company, which offers car rental service, was able to gain profit last month after facing losses amounting to almost RM10,000 every month since the beginning of the Movement Control Order (MCO) in March last year.

Despite being optimistic with the pick-up in sales, Mahizan is still worried to accept early bookings for car rentals due to concerns over possible surge in cases on the island.

“For me, business is back to normal. My car rental service is fully booked for January. However, I am not taking reservations for February although I know more tourists will be coming here due to the Chinese New Year holidays.

“I am worried to take in early bookings mainly because I am afraid I would have to return their deposits. If we are just put under MCO, it would be okay, but Enhanced MCO would put a strain on the business,” he told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) yesterday.

MBH Utara has four vans, four scooters and six cars available for rental all year round.

Mahizan said the car rental businesses on the island were able to “breathe” again in December after months of inactivity, which led to most cars being parked in available parking lots on the island.

“All of the cars for rent available on the island last month were fully booked. Everyone came to the island, maybe because they cannot think of other places to spend the holidays,” he added.

Meanwhile, Afham Nasir, owner of The Kasbah Langkawi — a traveller’s cafe and guesthouse nearby Cenang Beach — foresees another “dark year” for his business operations due to fears of the “Langkawi cluster”.

Sales were picking up last month, especially towards year-end, but Afham expects operations to near zero again if there is a surge in Covid-19 cases on the island.

“It will also take some time for the vaccine to reach Malaysian shores, so it will be another dark year for us,” he told TMR.

The Kasbah had to let go almost 70% of its staff, while its sales dropped almost 90% from the beginning of MCO.

Afham said the recent New Year celebrations may have drawn in tourists, but now that it is over, reality has started to sink in as the public is expected to be more careful with their spending.

Among his plans to stay afloat amid the tough season are to appeal to local tourists and build its presence in the local market as he said the guesthouse and cafe mainly received international tourists prior to the pandemic.

“The virus will not go away soon if we have to work on a plan to stay afloat. We want to see if we can gain traction from the local market and what we can do marketing-wise to further boost sales,” he said.


Read our earlier report

Langkawi trending due to fear of new cluster