The Government of Penang has proposed a route towards the gradual reopening of tourism attractions and facilities following the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions. Known as the “travel bubble,” the strategy follows a model that has been successful in Australia and New Zealand, and involves reopening travel between virus-free areas, officially designated as Green Zones.
While not a complete renewal of normal operations, the travel bubble strategy would open the door for a partial return of international visitors to one of Malaysia’s most popular destinations, and provide a starting point for the tourism industry nationwide.
“As Penang is currently practicing the Gradual Recovery Strategy, this could be a viable solution, to begin with, rather than opening all our borders at once and risking transmission again,” said Yeoh Soon Hin, Chairman of the Committee on Tourism, Arts, Culture and Heritage.
The idea is one of many being proposed by experts, industry professionals and government officials, as Malaysia seeks the correct path to revival of its tourism sector in the wake of the disruption caused by COVID-19. The objective is to have a fully formed tourism policy that’s ready to roll out as soon as the interstate travel ban has been lifted.
The travel bubble strategy favours a steady approach that would permit travel between neighbouring areas that have been officially declared free of the virus. Initial stages of the project would be limited to tourist attractions in Penang only.
“We could kick-start the tourism economy gradually, but through constant monitoring of the progress before we proceed, as it is a state priority to ensure that the state remains a green zone before Penang opens its tourism borders to welcome others,” said Yeoh. The proposal is currently under consideration with Malaysia’s tourism task force.
Malaysia is currently under partial lockdown, known as a Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO). The restrictions, which include a ban on interstate travel, were extended earlier this month to cover the annual Eid religious festival – a time when many Malaysians traditionally travel home for the holidays. With this time now passed, the country is considering further relaxations to its travel restrictions.
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