Overwhelming interest and bookings in Langkawi pending tourism SOPs

Industry players expect the SOPs to be issued today


LANGKAWI hotel operators are seeing a rush of bookings and inquiries, but they will not be able to proceed for confirmation until the standard operating procedures (SOPs) for tourism are announced.

Langkawi Tourism Association (LTA) CEO Zainudin Kadir told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) that industry players expect the SOPs to be issued today.

Inquiries for hotels, chalet and villas have been coming in since the government said the duty-free island will reopen its door for tourism activities on Sept 16.

He said villas with private pools are gaining popularity as the Covid-19 pandemic skewers activities that involve big crowds.

“We are ready and anticipating the SOPs whether tourists need specific authorisation letters from the police to travel inter-district and interstate, whether they can use private vehicles or need a travel agent to come.

“For now, we only take their name, contact number and date, but not the deposit yet. Once the SOPs are announced, we will proceed with the booking,” Zainudin said.

The Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture (Motac) recommends that unvaccinated children be allowed to accompany their guardians holidaying on the island. Local airlines also are getting ready to increase the frequency of their services to Langkawi in anticipation of the reopening on Sept 16.

“We are currently working on a few campaigns to revitalise tourism in Langkawi with some very attractive deals, which will be announced soon,” AirAsia Bhd CEO Riad Asmat said in a statement.

Zainudin stressed that LTA members have already spent RM10,000 to RM40,000 for the reopening using their own money, hence he hopes there will be no U-turn on the policy.

“Community economy is expected to grow 70% once Langkawi reopens, we really hope this is the real recovery time for us,” he added.

Echoing the same sentiment, the Malaysian Association of Hotels Kedah and Perlis chapter chairman Eugene Dass said tourism is the bread and butter for Langkawi and it is still a preferred location for the domestic market in view of the travel restrictions abroad.

He said whatever challenges that come ahead can be reduced with advance notice and planning — and more vigilance in safety protocols.

“We would have to be brave and adapt and adjust as we go along. There cannot be a re-shut of Langkawi tourism. Too many stakeholders are involved and too many livelihoods.

“We are ready to open, our members’ hotel staff have been fully vaccinated, which was done before the end of August,” he told TMR.

Eugene said the industry has its own SOPs in place since the first Movement Control Order and continues to maintain these SOPs since then. What needs to be done is to fine-tune it slightly based on the new SOPs, he added.

“Our member hotels have also subscribed to the Clean and Safe Certification, which is supported by Motac, which is a plus point for hotels and is internationally recognised.

“We also have the Innkeepers Act, which is used as a reference for hotels, which is again based on international practises.”

Eugene said until now, booking is chalking about 20% for a start and expects to see a pick-up once clear SOPs are in place and interstate travel allowed.

“We would like to accept customers from all states, but we feel that the bulk would probably be from Selangor,” he added.

More states are expected to transition into Phase 2 of the National Recovery Plan soon, as Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced yesterday that the Klang Valley and Putrajaya will be entering the phase from tomorrow.

The Malaysian Association of Tour & Travel Agents (Matta) Kedah chapter chairman Mohd Yusin Mohd Yatim said the Langkawi Development Authority had conducted courses for the tourism and food and beverage sectors, with emphasis on strict adherence to SOPs, in the last two weeks.

However, he reminded that some industries may take some time until they resume operations, considering how long the industry has been in hibernation.

“Nevertheless, we look forward to receiving all fully vaccinated domestic guests and we thank the government for choosing Langkawi as the first pilot project. I think all our Matta members are ready and we are just waiting for the SOPs from Motac,” he told TMR.