Be prepared and take measures to deal with the new waves of pandemics, Minister of Tourism hopes that gradual reopening of borders

Date: 31 Dec 2021
Road to Malaysia's Tourism Recovery Series 3

Author 林安琪 Lim Ann Gee

Tourism is inseparable from travel. As such, the recovery of the tourism industry is directly connected to freedom of movement. With Malaysia reopening interstate travel on October 11 and the launch of the Langkawi International Travel Bubble (LITB) and Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) in November, the recovery of the local tourism sector has gradually been picking up.

Malaysia’s Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Dato’ Sri Nancy Shukri believes that with Malaysia on the road to becoming one of the countries in the world with the best vaccination rates in the world, the Langkawi International Travel Bubble and Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) can potentially attract foreign tourists.

“We hope that with the gradual reopening of borders such as the Langkawi International Travel Bubble (LITB) on 15 November 2021, and the Malaysia-Singapore Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) on 29 November 2021, we will not only see an increase in tourists and tourism revenue but also help us inch closer to the complete reopening of our borders to foreign tourists.”

In a written reply to the Oriental Daily reporter’s questions, Nancy pointed out that as of December 21, 2021, over 600,000 domestic and foreign tourists have visited Langkawi with tourism revenue reaching RM640 million.

As of December 22, 2021, 1,089 tourists have visited Langkawi via the tourism bubble including tourists from the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, China, Germany, Indonesia and Thailand.


She also said that as of December 13, 2021, the Malaysia-Singapore VTL for air travel has brought 15,864 tourists to Malaysia. Meanwhile as of December 18, 2021, 22,003 tourists have come to Malaysia via the Malaysia-Singapore VTL on land.

“We are looking forward to expanding the VTL to other ASEAN countries when the conditions permit.”

However, Malaysia and Singapore agreed to temporarily suspend the sale of airline and bus tickets for the VTL from December 23, 2021 to January 20, 2022 after Singapore has identified a probably Omicron COVID-19 cluster due to local transmissions..

Nancy also mentioned that according to the report by the Malaysian Hotels Association, the average hotel occupancy rate in the third quarter of 2021 had increased to nearly 30% compared to that of the second quarter in the same year.

“The interstate travel ban was lifted on October 11 and the average (hotel) occupancy rate has risen steadily to 45% in November.”

She said that this was a good indicator of recovery and that given our international borders are still closed, it means that locals are beginning to adapt to the new normal in tourism.

She said that MOTAC is working on numerous strategies to boost domestic tourism including incentivised programmes in the form of discounts with local airlines, the Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH), discounts, rebates, vouchers as well as the purchase of cultural products.

“As of December 9, 2021, Malaysians have fully redeemed all of these incentives.”

While tourists have started to travel under the conditions of the new normal, Nancy Shukri urges tourists to follow standard operating procedures (SOPs) while travelling to ensure that the number of Covid-19 cases remains low so that tourism activities can continue to open.

She pointed out that with the new coronavirus variant, the government will always be prepared to take all the necessary measures before fully reopening our borders.


Malaysia’s active participation in the recovery of tourism in ASEAN

Nancy Shukri added that on the road to ASEAN’s recovery, Malaysia has been actively participating in ASEAN-level discussions through the ASEAN National Tourism Organisation (NTO), its committees and working groups to propose mitigation and action plans in order to break the Covid-19 chain of infection and to continue the implementation of the ASEAN Tourism Strategic Plan (ATSP) from 2016 to 2025.

She pointed out that Malaysia is actively playing a key leadership role in executing strategic action plans on investment, sustainability and marketing matters under the ATSP, which in turn will enhance ASEAN’s competitiveness as a single tourism destination.

She said that Malaysia is also working closely with all relevant ASEAN sectoral agencies to effectively and comprehensively implement recovery actions and programmes as well as harmonise policies and guidelines to collectively respond to COVID-19.


How the pandemic changed travel patterns towards health and safety

When discussing changes in future travel plans during the pandemic, Nancy pointed out that future travel patterns will definitely change and that travellers’ preferences and activities will shift towards familiar, predictable, trustable and low-risk destinations, such as domestic and regional resort destinations, outdoor activities and ecotourism attractions.

“Safe, uncrowded and comfortable destinations will have a surge in demand by travellers, giving rise to an opportunity to promote lesser-known destinations. Not only will this expand the economic benefits of tourism but also will solve the problem of crowds at popular attractions.”

In the aftermath of the pandemic, health and safety will become important factors in attracting tourists who prefer destinations with good infrastructure, proper medical facilities and compliance with standards for cleanliness, health and safety, she said.

Citing Tourism Malaysia’s Survey on Domestic Travel in Malaysia last year, she said that most respondents believe COVID-19 has impacted their travel behaviours.

“Almost all respondents opt for hygiene and safety as the main priority in deciding to travel and avoid travelling in crowded areas.. Most respondents prefer to arrange their own travel through online booking services.”

She believes that tourism operators must be ruthless in reviewing their business processes to adjust and adapt to new travel patterns during the pandemic.

“Travellers are seeking further support to face changing circumstances and uncertainty. Travel operators are becoming more valuable and important in assisting travellers in making informed decisions.”

She suggested that tourism operators remain flexible and to engage more with consumers and other stakeholders in order to overcome challenges and make travel enjoyable again which will in turn, encourage more tourists to travel.

This article is developed under the SEAFORE project, with the support of IWPR



我國旅遊、藝術及文化部長拿督斯裡南希蘇克里相信,隨著馬來西亞成為世界上接種新冠疫苗最多的國家之一,浮羅交怡國際旅遊泡泡和疫苗接種者旅遊走廊 (VTL) 可以吸引潛在的國際遊客。

[ 我們希望逐步重新開放邊境,比如2021年11月15日開啟的浮羅交怡國際旅遊泡泡(LITB)和2021年11月29日的馬新疫苗接種者旅遊走廊(VTL),不僅會進一步增加遊客人數和收入,還有助於向國際旅客全面重開邊境。]





[ 一旦情況允許,我們期待將VTL擴展到其他東盟國家。]

不過,馬新兩國已經同意從2021年12月23日至2022年1月20日暫時暫停售 VTL的機票和巴士票,因為新加坡可能出現了變種病毒Omicron的感染群。


[ 跨州出行禁令在10月11日解除,平均入住率穩步上升,在11月時已經升至45%。]


她說,旅遊部計劃了多種促進國內旅遊的策略,包括以當地航空公司、馬來西亞酒店協會 (MAH) 提供的折扣、回扣、禮券形式的獎勵兌換計劃,以及用作購買文化產品。

[ 截至2021年12月9日,馬來西亞人已完全兌換所有這些獎勵。]




此外,南希蘇克里表示,在東盟的複甦之路上,馬來西亞一直通過東盟國家旅遊組織 (NTO) 及其委員會和工作組,積極參與東盟層面的活動,提出緩解和行動計劃以規避新冠肺炎帶來的影響,繼續實施2016年至2025年的東盟旅遊戰略計劃(ATSP)。




談到在疫情下,未來旅遊形態的改變,南希指出,未來的旅遊形態肯定會發生變化,旅客的偏好和活動將轉向熟悉、可預測、值得信賴甚至低風險的目的地, 比如國內和區域的度假勝地、戶外探險和生態旅遊景點。

[ 安全、不擁擠和舒適的目的地將成為旅客的需求,這為推廣鮮為人知的目的地提供了機會。這不僅將擴大旅遊業的經濟效益,而且還將解決著名景點的人潮問題。]



[ 幾乎所有受訪者都將衛生和安全列為旅行決定的優先事項,並避免在擁擠的地區旅行。大多數受訪者更願意通過在線預訂網站獨立安排旅行。]


[ 旅客在面對不確定性時,會尋求進一步的支持以面對不斷變化的情況,而旅遊業者在協助旅客做出明智決策方面,變得更加有價值和重要。]


備注:此專題報導為戰爭與和平報導研究所(IWPR)支持的SEAFORE東盟精英項目(SEAFORE ASEAN Masterclass project)之一。