Travel bubble a windfall for Langkawi

Implementation of international travel bubble came at the right time to supplement seasonal domestic demand and sustain tourism industry

by TMR / pic by BERNAMA

THE people of Langkawi — where 90% of the population is involved in the tourism industry — are benefitting directly from the success of the pilot travel bubble that was implemented on the resort island in September.

Langkawi Travel Association (LTA) CEO Zainudin Kadir said some 106,200 out of 118,000 of the island’s population are highly dependent on tourism spending.

“LTA, on behalf of all tourism industry players, would like to thank the government, especially Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob for choosing Langkawi as the pilot for the domestic travel bubble project, which has achieved the objective of reviving the island’s economy.

“Following that, the government also announced the Langkawi international travel bubble project with the first flight from Singapore,” he said.

Zainudin said the government’s action to extend the domestic travel bubble to international travellers was the best step to ensure the people’s economy is no longer affected by the inactivity of the tourism sector due to Covid-19.

He said the implementation of the international travel bubble came at the right time because it will supplement the seasonal demand from domestic tourists and ensure that the tourism industry can be sustained.

He said the fact that Langkawi is an island made it easier to maintain security to ensure that the increased number of visitors would not cause the spread of Covid-19 that may affect the people there.

He said local operators were thankful when foreign tourists are allowed into Langkawi.

However, he said even though the number of visitors to the island is increasing, many products in Langkawi are not taken up by domestic tourists who prefer beach activities.

“With the presence of foreign tourists, tourism operators are beginning to see revenue that was badly hit when the industry sector was closed due to the pandemic.

Zainudin said the number of tourists visiting the island in the last two weeks of September was 38,749.

That number increased to 158,870 in October and again to 232,099 visitors, meaning the number of visitors jumped by more than 400% in Oct and 600% in November.

“The number of visitors will continue to grow with 250,000 people anticipated in December, including foreign tourists.”

Zainudin said the tourism industry generated about RM24.9 million from the implementation of the travel bubble from Sept 16 until Oct 6, 2021.

Langkawi is buzzing again

MOST tourism industry players on the resort island of Langkawi see the government’s decision to implement a travel bubble as heaven-sent and a lifeline after the paralysis from restrictions of the Movement Control Order (MCO).

Motel Meranti Tanjong Pantai Cenang director Raniza Ahmad said hotel’s occupancy began to rise after Sept 16 and has since reached 100% in December.

She said on average, the occupancy at the 90-bed hotel increased 40% on weekdays and up to 90% of capacity on weekends.

“We have just managed to pay the money we owe our contractors for the building that was completed just before the MCO, all because we are beginning to see bookings increase.

“If the government had not reopened the tourism sector and lifted the travel restrictions, we may not have been able to rebound as quickly as we are now because we have spent all our savings,” she said yesterday.

At the same time, Raniza hopes the government would not shut the tourism sector on the island because the maintenance of the hotels that have been left idle for nine months since January was very high.

Abd Rashid poses with some of the cars available for rental at Tiara Holiday after the island reopens for tourists – pic courtesy of Utusan Malaysia

The owner of Restoran Selera Padang Putih, Md Zainal Md Saad, 43, said his customers have increased by more than 70%, compared to at the time of the MCO, since the travel bubble was implemented.

Md Zainal started his restaurant in January after being laid off from a five-star hotel.

“When the tourism industry was allowed to operate, I began to get customers who are also hotel staff.

“When the restaurant became more popular, I increased my menu to 20 items compared to just eight before the bubble was implemented,” he said.

Abd Rashid Hisham who operates a car rental business at Tiara Holiday Sdn Bhd said almost all of his 86 vehicles have been booked since the travel bubble was introduced at the island.

This contrasted to the time when all of them were idly parked when the visitors to the island dried up due to the ban on interstate travel earlier this year.

“After the bubble was implemented and the government eventually allowed interstate travel, Langkawi’s tourism sector is buzzing again,” he said.