Langkawi, Kuching selected as Covid-Free destinations


THE Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture (Motac) has selected Langkawi, Kedah and Kuching, Sarawak for the Covid-Free destination programs in efforts to speed up the vaccination programs at the tourism hotspots.

“For the second phase, Motac will expand the program to other popular resort islands such as Redang Island, Perhentian Island, Pangkor Island, and Tioman Island as well as other main attractions in various states such as Johor, Melaka, Pulau Pinang and Sabah while the third phase involves other main destinations,” the ministry said in a statement yesterday.

Currently Motac is working closely with the Covid-19 immunisation task force (CITF) to utilise the existing centres for vaccination to accelerate the programme for the tourism frontliners.

It is also in discussion with various ministries and authorities to establish a travel bubble that will help restart the tourism industry as soon as possible.

Motac said the discussion involves the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and several other ministries, and agencies to explore opportunities to create a creative travel bubble with SOPs that consider aspects of health, immigration, data tracking, and continuous monitoring by relevant agencies.

“Motac is also in the midst of proposing to the NSC to reactivate tourism activities by phases, where Tier 1 will be to allow intra-district travel and tourism activities within the district, followed by Tier 2, to allow inter-district travel and tourism.

“Tier 3 will allow inter-state travel and tourism while Tier 4 allows international travel and inbound tourists,” it said.

Other initiatives taken by Motac to relieve the burden on the tourism industry players include the relaxation of compound matters under Act 482 such as compound payment discount of 40% to all tour operators and licensed tour guides compounded by Motac before Dec 30, 2021.

“There will also be license fee exemption for tour operators and tourist guides licensed under Act 482,” it said.

Further relaxation of license requirements for tour operators also include rental of business premises by co-share office space, on top of application for renewal of license without audited financial report, permission to carry on other business in the premises of the tour operator company from and issuance of tour operator company license without inspection of premises, applicable for specified periods.

In addition, economic stimulus packages have also been announced for tourism industry players, such as electricity bill discount extension, on top of various one-off special assistance.

As of June 2021, 327 applications under the Penjana Tourism Financing have been approved with a total funding of RM65.1 million.

Motac noted the proposal by the Malaysian Association of Theme Park and Family Attractions (MATFA) on the action to be taken by the government, which involves core businesses such as theme parks, attractions, playland, spa wellness, cinema and family entertainment centres.

“Motac welcomes the proposals and would like to reiterate government’s commitment in ensuring the tourism industry stays afloat with well prepared plans and programs,” it said.

Among the plans that were made in close consultation with industry associations include the revitalising of domestic tourism by offering more creative travel packages via digital platforms, offer incentives and promotions as rebate vouches, e-vouchers, cashback through e-wallets and discounts.

“Other plans include restoring public confidence to travel again by adapting to the new normal such as emphasising on hygiene, cleanliness and health safety and compliance to standard operating procedures (SOPs) and embracing the technology of secure, seamless and contactless travel, such as cashless payment, online booking, contactless transaction, and contactless check-in.

It added that other plans include promoting sustainable tourism development by re-strategising efforts to conserve and preserve the environment such as considering carrying capacity on islands or fragile destinations, among others.