Malaysia’s Tourism Minister has stated her intentions to fully reopen the country to international tourists before the end of 2021. The first destination to welcome back foreign tourists will be Langkawi, which is due to open its doors on 15 November.
“For the whole of Malaysia, we will observe the situation in Langkawi first, and then only we can look into reopening the whole of the country,” said Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister, Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri, in a statement yesterday (27/10). “Although we (originally) set a target of three months, I think we may open it earlier,” she added.
Langkawi officially reopened to domestic tourism on 16 September. In the month that followed, the island safely welcomed back over 128,000 visitors. This has encouraged officials that the time is right to expand the bubble scheme to include international tourists.
Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob confirmed on Friday, 22 October that fully vaccinated international travellers will be allowed to visit Langkawi for a minimum stay of three days, without the need for quarantine restrictions.
Travellers will need to undergo a Covid-19 test 72 hours before departure and on the second day of stay in Langkawi. They must also show proof of insurance equal to at least US$80,000. The success of the Langkawi pilot scheme is expected to precede other destinations reopening in stages from next month onwards.
Other popular tourism locations are currently being reviewed by the National Security Council and the Health Ministry, before seeking final approval for travel bubble status from the Special Covid-19 Pandemic Management Committee, chaired by the Prime Minister.
In a bid to get the ball rolling, the Tourism Minister is expected to meet with Singapore officials next week to discuss lifting restrictions on cross-border travel between the two neighbouring countries, which would be a first step in the process of welcoming back international tourism. This is expected to begin next month.
“We are open (to) Singapore as long as Singapore is open to us as well,” said Nancy on CNBC’s Street Signs Asia show on Thursday, 21 October. When asked to provide a timeline for the arrangements with Singapore, she said she was “very optimistic that it should be by November”.
On 11 October Malaysia lifted its ban on interstate travel and announced it will transition to an endemic phase of living with the coronavirus by the end of this month. The government is also expanding the reach of its vaccination drive, by administering the Covid-19 jab to teenagers and providing booster shots to high-risk groups. To date, 94.4% of adults in Malaysia and 72.2% of the total population have completed Covid-19 vaccinations.