Covid-19: Malaysia will never close its borders for tourists, minister says

Country plans to reopen its borders to visitors by January

by Anjana Sankar

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Supplied photo
Supplied photo

Published: Wed 29 Dec 2021, 5:57 PM

Malaysia has no plans to ever close its borders for international tourism or enforce a total lockdown as the Covid-19 Omicron variant fear grips the world, a top minister of the country said in Dubai, on Tuesday.

Hajah Nancy Shukri, Malaysia’s Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, said her country’s high vaccination rates and the efficient handling of the pandemic will allow them to open the country's borders to international tourists.

“We have no plans to ever close the borders,” Shukri told journalists during a briefing at the Malaysia Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai.

Shukri said the country is opening in phases as strict SOPs are in place. “As of now, things are under control and we are still very cautious."

The South East Asian country that counts on tourism as its economic backbone underwent one of the strictest lockdowns since the pandemic. International tourists were not allowed until mid-November 2021 when the Malaysian Government launched its first International travel bubble by reopening Langkawi Island to fully-vaccinated international tourists without quarantine requirements.

Following that, Malaysia reopened its land and air borders for Singaporean citizens through a Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) arrangement starting November 29. As of December 29, 97.6 per cent of Malaysia’s adult population have been fully inoculated, which makes it 78.4 per cent of the total population to have received complete vaccination.

The minister said closed borders and movement restrictions have had devastating consequences on the tourism industry. She said that Covid-19 wiped off more than 90 per cent of the country's tourism revenue.

“Malaysia’s tourism industry incurred huge losses in 2019. The contribution of tourism sector to the GDP dropped to 14.1% in 2020 compared to 17.1% in 2019,” said the minister.

“Spending by international tourists dropped from182.1 billion Ringgit in 2019 to 52.4 billion Ringgit in 2020. Domestic tourism spending also dropped to 40.4 billion from 103.2 billion in 2020.”

The country received only 80,000 tourists in 2021 as against 4.2 million in 2020.

Only 679 Emiratis travelled from the UAE to Malaysia in 2020, as compared to 11,174 in 2019.

Before the Covid-19 crisis, travel and tourism contributed to 15.9% of the GDP. More than 3.6 million people were working in the industry. Malaysia also received 26.1 million inbound tourist arrivals every year which brought in a revenue of 86 billion Ringgits.

But Shukri said the country is planning to revive the tourism sector amidst the spread of Omicron virus.

Malaysia plans to reopen its borders to international travellers by January as the country tries to revive tourism, but the new Covid variant is posing new challenges.

Since the opening of the travel bubble, 1,500 international travellers arrived in the country and the government is hoping the numbers will go up in 2022, the minister said.

Through Malaysia's National Tourism Policy 2020-2030, which is based on the three pillars: Competitiveness, Inclusion and Sustainability, Shukri said the country is roping in more stakeholders to come up with attractive packages. Promoting Malaysia as the next top Ecotourism Destination in the World, and improving infrastructure and other facilities, promoting sustainable products and services are among the strategies planned to revive the ailing industry, the minister informed.

  • Asia
Anjana Sankar

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