By Janani Rajandran (BAC Apprentice)
Dear Malaysians, the wait is finally over. It’s time to escape from reality and indulge yourself in the warm sunshine alongside the magnificent views of the Andaman Sea to cure your lockdown blues.
Almost after a year of travel restrictions and closed borders due to the pandemic, Malaysia’s unrivaled paradise island of Langkawi is gearing up to welcome its first batch of domestic tourists following the launch of the ‘Langkawi Travel Bubble’. On 9th September 2021, YB. Dato’ Sri Hajah Nancy Shukri, the Minister of Tourism, Art and Culture officially announced that as a pilot project, the crown jewel of Kedah, Langkawi Island will be reopened to fully vaccinated domestic tourists from 16 September 2021 onwards.
Mirroring Thailand’s ‘Phuket Sandbox’ scheme, the ‘Langkawi Travel Bubble’ is an initiative aimed to revive and boost Malaysia’s domestic tourism which came to a screeching halt due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Langkawi Travel Bubble will be open to fully vaccinated domestic tourists from all over Malaysia, including residents under Phase 1 of the National Recovery Plan, but excluding residents from Enhanced Movement Control Order (EMCO) areas.
Local tourists may travel to Langkawi either by air or land, subject to the following restrictions:
(a) For movement via road, tourists are required to engage services of travel agencies, at least for the transportation from their point of origin to the ferry jetty terminal in Langkawi; or
(b) For tourists who opt to fly to Langkawi or begin their journey from Kedah or Perlis, they are not required to engage the services of travel agencies.
Based on a circular issued by the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture dated 9.9.2021, some of the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) that must be adhered to ensure a safe and smooth travel are as follows:
(1) The tourism bubble is only available to fully vaccinated individuals nationwide;
(2) There is no age limit for entry to Langkawi Island;
(3) Children below the age of 18 who are not vaccinated are allowed to travel and must be accompanied by fully vaccinated parents;
(4) The number of passengers per vehicle is subject to the maximum capacity of the vehicle;
(5) To adapt to the timing of ferry services to the island, tourists can stay overnight at registered accommodations in Kedah and Perlis.
(6) Tourists must provide proof of purchase documents/receipts for every tourism such as flight tickets, ferry tickets, hotel receipts and/or travel packages receipts when applying for permission with the PDRM and when requested by any authorities.
(7) Tourists will be required to flash their Covid-19 vaccine e-certificate when requested by authorities;
(8) Insurance coverage and Covid-19 screening prior to the travel are not required;
(9) The permitted ‘Langkawi Travel Bubble’ activities are as follows:
· Accommodation in hotels, resorts and homestays including services and facilities provided in the hotels. Resorts and homestays such as swimming pool, gymnasiums, lounge, surau etc;
· Beach activities, water sports, snorkeling, scuba diving, fishing tours, edutainment centers, recreational parks, adventure parks, aquariums, zoos, farms and other social activities.
· Special Interest Tourism Activities such as golfing, scuba diving, cycling, angling, yachting etc;
· Eco Geo-Travel Activities such as bird watching, caving, mountain climbing, water rafting, trekking, camping etc;
· Premises of art, culture and heritage such as museums, libraries, art galleries, cultural heritage art centres, staging of cultural performances etc;
· Theme parks and Family Entertainment Centres; and
· Academics Tours such as the Geopark Discovery Centre, Art Gallery, and Paddy Field.
The Minister also mentioned that the travel bubble in Langkawi will be closely supervised and the Ministry will obtain feedback from the local communities to be evaluated and be submitted to the National Security Council for further consideration for the reopening of more popular tourist destinations around Malaysia.
On a side note, Senior Defence Minister, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said that he will discuss with YB. Dato’ Sri Hajah Nancy Shukri on the regulations and the SOPs required to be improved so that it doesn’t result in the spike of Covid-19 cases from the implementation of the travel bubble. He also stressed that he would not allow the reopening of other tourist destinations pending the outcome of the Langkawi Travel Bubble.
GoodNews wishes all travelers safe travels- remember to be responsible, maintain social distancing and adhere to all SOPs in place. Bon voyage!