PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysia is banking on domestic "revenge tourists" to boost the battered leisure travel sector once it is safe to take holidays again, a top tourism official said on Tuesday (March 9).
"Our domestic tourists are waiting to travel again, especially interstate travel. If they are allowed to cross state borders, they would do so," said director-general Zulkifly Md Said of Tourism Malaysia, a government agency.
Mr Zulkifly said his agency has observed encouraging travel movement with the lifting of the inter-district travel ban recently.
"Hotels are receiving weekend staycation guests. Since people have long been stuck at home, they want to just relax at a hotel and do some sightseeing in the city," he said during the launch of travel fair ITB Berlin Now.
The term "revenge tourism" describes the huge desire of people to travel after being stuck at home due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
But Mr Zulkifly warned that travellers and tourism operators need to observe strict health protocols.
"Lessons were learnt from the rise in cases towards the end of last year (when interstate travel was allowed)," he said, referring to instances of people not complying with the government's standard operating procedures on health precautions.
Mr Zulkifly said Malaysia is also looking at introducing a "health pass", such as the International Air Transport Associations Travel Pass, to facilitate post-pandemic travels.
"We need a valid document that can be accepted for a start, within the Asean region. The document also shouldn't be easily forged for the safety of the travellers and also safety of the country where they are going to," he said.
Meanwhile, the government will from Wednesday allow Malaysians living in states and territories with the more relaxed, tier-3 movement curbs to cross into other regions with similar curbs to enjoy domestic holidays.
Malaysia has three tiers of large-scale movement control order (MCO), with the MCO being the strictest, entailing police roadblocks and regular checks on business premises by the authorities to ensure compliance with health protocols.
The second-tier Conditional MCO is now imposed on Selangor, Johor, Penang, Kedah, Kelantan, Negeri Sembilan, Sarawak and Perak states, and the Kuala Lumpur federal territory, with mass gatherings generally limited.
The tier-3 curbs are called Recovery MCO, with most business sectors reopened. These regions are under the RMCO: Melaka, Pahang, Terengganu, Sabah and Perlis states, and the federal territories of Putrajaya and Labuan.
The announcement by Senior Minister for Security Ismail Sabri Yaakob meant that only residents of the RMCO regions are allowed to travel for holiday purposes into these other RMCO areas.
They cannot make holiday tours into the CMCO regions.
The government has banned interstate travel for nearly two months as it tries to bring down the daily coronavirus case load.
Senior Minister for Security Ismail Sabri Yaakob said those travelling from one RMCO region to another for holidays must do so using only vehicles provided by travel agencies
And the operators of these vehicles must seek prior police permission to make the interstate journeys.
"Travel for tourism purposes using private vehicles is not allowed. This is because police will have a difficult time to monitor movements compared with using transport provided by tour companies," Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri said in his daily Covid-19 security briefing.
If they take buses, say from Putrajaya to go for a holiday in Melaka, they cannot stop in a CMCO region that they pass through such as Negeri Sembilan, he said.
The MCO imposed on most states and territories from mid-January was relaxed to the tier-2 CMCO last Friday as coronavirus cases trended down after hitting a record high of 5,728 daily cases on Jan 30.
The daily toll of new cases reported on Tuesday was 1,280 - the lowest logged this year.
The number of active cases - people being treated for the virus in hospitals and at government centres - stood at 18,704 on Tuesday, sharply down from its peak of 52,186 on Feb 10.