More Asian travel bubbles after Indonesia

by RAHIMI YUNUS / pic by ARIF KARTONO

MALAYSIA is in the process of establishing travel bubbles with several other Asian countries, including Singapore, Brunei, China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan, while the discussions with Indonesia for the same purpose are ongoing.

Tourism Malaysia DG Zulkifly Md Said said the government plans to attract essential and leisure travellers into the country via the travel bubbles to revitalise the tourism and culture industry as the country recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Apart from Indonesia, we are hoping for a travel bubble with Singapore, which is connected to Malaysia via all modes of transport, including road, air and sea.

“Brunei is also another country that we look at. Besides that, we have China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan in the pipeline subject to an ongoing discussion with the countries’ authorities,” Zulkifly said after the opening of ITB (Internationale Tourismus-Borse) Berlin NOW 2021 (Malaysia Chapter) in Kuala Lumpur yesterday, officiated by Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri.

Zulkifly said Malaysia is still in talks with Indonesia on the Reciprocal Green Lane/Travel Corridor arrangement covering the types of travel to be allowed and the particular destinations to be chosen for the programme.

He, however, said it is beyond Tourism Malaysia’s jurisdictions to be able to tell when will the negotiations be concluded.

“Certain timeframes would allow us to plan, but it is beyond our authority. The urgency is not only with us, but with the countries we are talking to.

“Any changes can happen as time goes by that may jeopardise all these ongoing talks like what happened between Singapore and Hong Kong previously,” Zulkifly added.

As for the Covid-19 vaccine passport, he said a valid document that is recognised by governments is needed and it must not be easily forged to ensure the safety of travel and its holders.

Nancy said in her speech earlier that the government would issue Covid-19 vaccine passports for those who have been vaccinated, similar to the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) initiative to launch the IATA Travel Pass, a global and standardised digital passport that will allow people to travel once again and serve as a solution to the aviation sector.

Malaysia recently launched National Tourism Policy 2020-2030, aimed at ensuring the continuity of the country’s tourism industry and bringing back Malaysia as the preferred tourism destination at the global level among the “Top of the Mind Ecotourism Destinations of the World”.

Nancy said among the strategies include the creation of Special Tourism Investment Zones, intensifying digitalisation of the tourism sector, enriching tourists’ experience and satisfaction, and strengthening the country’s commitment to sustainable tourism.

She said the tourism industry is now focusing on maximising existing resources through ecotourism, rural and experiential tourism, enhancing niche products and expanding more personalised travel packages.

Malaysia’s international tourist arrivals plummeted to 4.33 miliion in 2020 compared to 26.1 million international tourist arrivals in 2019, giving a negative growth of 83.4% year-on-year.

Tourist receipts plunged by 85.3% to RM12.67 billion in 2020 from RM86.1 billion a year ago, with the average per capita expenditure recording a total of RM2,928.40, a decline of 11.3% from RM3,300.40 in 2019.

The global tourism sector experienced a 74% decline in international arrivals in 2020, while Asia Pacific suffered an 84% decrease, according to the World Tourism Organisation.

Malaysia participates in the ITB Berlin NOW 2021 for the 48th time this year with 30 Malaysian organisations consisting of 10 tour operators, 10 hotels and resorts, seven state tourism boards and three tourism associations.

ITB Berlin, the world’s largest tourism trade fair, is going fully virtual this year from yesterday until March 12.

Malaysia is taking full advantage of the virtual experience by having a “virtual cafe” called Malaysia Truly Asia Café Corner that will highlight Malaysia’s niche products, such as specialised scuba diving for the disabled, birdwatching and medical tourism.