Starting from 1 October, the state of Sarawak reopened its borders and officially welcomed back tourists, as Malaysia continues to lift Covid restrictions and look to the future. All tourist attractions, hotels and programmes are now fully reinstated, provided the appropriate SOP are in place. The state is currently looking to start travel bubble arrangements with selected international arrivals, with Sarawak expected to act as pilot project for arrivals from Singapore.
With vaccinations approaching completion and tourism activities slowly returning to normal nationwide, state Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah has confirmed Sarawak could be the ideal candidate for a pilot project in Malaysia’s international tourism revival. “We will be selective in the countries that we engage to restart tourism activities,” explained the minister in a statement on 27 September. “Probably we will work with Singapore first and see how it goes from there,” he added. The minister was speaking at a press conference celebrating ‘World Tourism Day 2021’ at a local hotel.
According to the minister, entry requirements for international arrivals could be relaxed if the travellers have been fully vaccinated. “Perhaps for tourists coming in from Singapore, our restrictions can be loosened a bit if they have already completed two doses of Covid-19 vaccination,” he said, before adding that flight schedules are being increased and transport links revived in anticipation of the tourism revival in Sarawak.
Domestic flights to Sarawak recently increased from 22 to 87 per week, as operators rush to meet demand following the state’s reopening. Sarawak state Transport Minister Datuk Lee Kim Shin provided more detail on the new routes: “these flights are from Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu, Penang, Johor Baru, Kota Baru, Labuan and Singapore to various destinations in Sarawak – Kuching, Sibu, Bintulu, Miri and Limbang,” he said, in an official statement on 28 September.
Echoing the recent shift in paradigm and government policy, he added that Malaysians must learn to live with Covid-19, taking the necessary precautions but not expecting to eradicate it entirely. As the nation moves towards endemic status for the virus, many are agreed that the time for strict restrictions has passed. “The State Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) chairman Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas has repeatedly stressed that we must learn to live with the virus and the coronavirus might never be eliminated from the community,” said the Transport Minister.
Abdul Karim is a member of the SDMC. He is confident that Sarawak can safely reopen, now that the worst phase of Covid-19 appears to have passed. “My personal opinion is that we are already at the late stage of the Covid-19 pandemic,” says Karim. “It is time to rethink, transform, and safely restart tourism,” he added. To enter Sarawak, travellers can now apply via the EnterSarawak website, with no quarantine required.