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Green Bubbles Breathe New Life into Tourism
03 July 2021 | Written by Chris Alexander

Malaysia’s top tourism official, Nancy Shukri has given reason for optimism to many in the sector, with confirmation of plans for the country’s revival. The Minister for Tourism, Arts, and Culture (MoTAC) announced plans to open a series of ‘green bubbles’ to international travellers nationwide, in a bid to speed up the revival process.  

Paving the way for the new Green Bubble programme, the government is accelerating vaccination drives, with 80% immunity the goal in target areas. According to the minister, the first batch of destinations could reopen within the next three months, with more to follow soon thereafter. 

“The good news, for tourism industry players nationwide – from hoteliers, to tour operators, to traders, and tour guides – is that many more green bubbles will be created,” said Shukri, in a statement to the associated press during an inspection of Langkawi. Under the minister’s new plan, the island is expected to be one of the first to reopen. 

Destinations such as Langkawi are the perfect pilot sites for a controlled and self-contained reopening. Similar to the ‘Phuket Sandbox’ project which is currently underway in Thailand, Malaysia is looking at options to fast-track a safe return to international tourism operations. As Shukri explains, the scheme “will not only allow us to reactivate the tourism industry there (in Langkawi), but also allow us to see how our efforts can be improved in other green bubbles, from Penang to Kuching.” 

The so-called ‘green bubbles’ will be areas where herd immunity has already been achieved and Covid-19 has been demonstrably contained. In order to achieve this, “the government is moving as fast as [it] can to achieve herd immunity throughout the country,” explains Shukri. “Once a tourist destination has achieved herd immunity, we will open it up for tourism activities,” she added. 

Other locations expected to reopen as green bubbles in the near future include Kota Kinabalu, Penang, Desaru Coast, Pulau Perhentian, Kuching, Melaka, Genting Highliands and Pulau Tioman. Industry players and government ministers alike are united in their resolve to move forward with the latest plans. 

As Nancy Shukri puts it simply, “we can do this.”