JOHOR BARU (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Tourism and trade groups in Malaysia hope that the Malaysian government will start discussions with Singapore to allow those who have been vaccinated in the island republic to enter the country without the need for quarantine.
Malaysia Tourist Guides Council president Jimmy Leong said it is important for the government to kick-start this discussion as this is critical for the recovery of the local economy.
"The state government needs to push the federal government to start discussing with Singapore.
"This is important for both countries as we are highly dependent on each other and starting such discussions early would be helpful in the speedy recovery of the economy after the pandemic," he said.
He added that the government should also start discussing with Singapore on ways to monitor the movement of vaccinated people between the two countries.
"The decision may not have to be made immediately, but there should at least be some form of preliminary discussion.
"The initial stages should focus on those who have family members in Johor or need to attend to urgent matters here, as well as for Malaysians in Singapore," said Mr Leong.
Malaysian Association of Hotels Johor state chapter chairman Ivan Teo said the discussion would give hope to tourism industry players who are on the verge of giving up after suffering through the pandemic for almost a year.
"Tourism industry players are losing hope after braving through the pandemic for so long and some have also decided to shut down as they see no way out.
"Starting this discussion will not only give us a better chance of recovering after the pandemic, but will also give industry players a glimpse of hope to continue moving forward," he said.
Mr Teo added that at least 14 hotels in Johor have shut down since the beginning of the pandemic last year.
"The hotel industry has already been struggling even before the pandemic, as they faced competition from online home-sharing businesses and illegal hotel operators.
"Instead of giving incentives and cash handouts, which would not last long, we prefer the government provide us with effective long-term recovery plans and solutions.
"Allowing vaccinated travellers from Singapore to enter the country without having to go through quarantine is one of the key ways, and discussions should start immediately," he said.
Johor Baru Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Low Kueck Shin said the federal government should start planning ways to allow cross-border travel to take place after the pandemic, especially with Singapore.
"It will take time for the vaccine to reach the whole population and there are bound to be possible delays along the way. We will also need time to see the effectiveness of the vaccines.
"But despite the uncertainties, planning ahead could give businesses time to make the necessary measures in adapting to the changes that will come along once cross-border travel restrictions are lifted," he said.
Singapore received its first shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine on Dec 21 last year.
The island republic expects to have enough Covid-19 vaccines for its citizens and long-term residents by the third quarter of 2021 if all goes according to plan.
According to Singapore's Health Ministry, as at Jan 22, more than 60,000 people have received their first dose of the vaccine.