Malaysia had thought of establishing travel bubbles with New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea as these were considered Covid-19 green zones. However, rapid changes in these countries have put a freeze on such thoughts. Opening up with the ASEAN only may be the other option under consideration.

The ASEAN region countries are planning to progressively open their borders to tourism by the first quarter of 2021. This means that those living in this area still have to wait for tourism and recreation travel for long four to six months. Malaysian officials have suggested that cross-border leisure travel will commence on a phased basis sometime in the first quarter of 2021, provided that the situation of Covid-19 in Malaysia remains under control.

So, during those six months or so, the only way to experience any leisure is by domestic travel. Additionally, this is also subject to the non-occurrence of COVID-19 cases in local areas and the free flow of inter-state and inter-city traffic. In most countries, certain regions may become vulnerable to sudden surges of COVID-19 cases and can therefore be declared hotspots. If so, the travel restrictions may be placed there, and when travelers return from such areas within their country, they may need to undergo quarantine.

Having said this, the fact is that on domestic flights in Malaysia and neighboring Thailand, AirAsia is already seeing 60 to 80 percent capacity. This means that things are moving in the right direction, albeit very slowly.

In Malaysia, many developments and events have been happening in recent times. It is better to go through some of these here.

China-Malaysia Culture and Tourism Month-Fun

In the recent past, even with such a suffocating situation because of COVID-19, there have been several happenings. On Twenty-six September 2020, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, launched the China-Malaysia Culture and Tourism Month-Fun with Nature campaign. Under this program, many events have been organized. These include cultural shows, traditional Chinese arts, and crafts cultural displays as well as other activities. The Nature Campaign consists of booths set up outside the Giant Panda Conservation Center. People could drop by to see the shows, including bottle painting and demonstrations of paper cutting, etc. Some people come to see Yi Yi, the second Malaysian-born giant panda. Many kids feel happy to visit the stands that gave a fascinating look at traditional Chinese craftsmanship.

Hikers of Mount Kinabalu tested positive for COVID-19!

Although things are going on positively in some places, other sites have a different story to tell. In another COVID-19 related development, the Board of Trustees of Sabah Parks (LPATTS) recently announced that all operations at Kinabalu Park have been suspended after a hiker tested positive for Covid-19 following close contact with another patient. The park will remain closed until October 8, according to the reports. Malaysian domestic visitors going to Sabah may take note of this.

Melaka to be promoted as a “Must Visit” destination

The Melaka state government in Malaysia is promoting tourism in the state using a campaign called the “Dream Now Travel Later” campaign (DNTL). The objective of this campaign is to plan and book your trips and tours now and visit later. In Melaka, the tourism promoters call Melaka a “must visit” destination, which it definitely is. If you are thinking of visiting somewhere, do consider Melaka, whether you are a domestic Malaysian visitor of overseas traveler.

Innovations from Air Asia

Air Asia Group is evolving from a tourism only business group to a multi-service provider. The largest budget airline company in Southeast Asia is launching what they call “AirAsia Digital.” This project involves three main business lines, namely the venture builder, the RedBeat Academy online education provider, and a data center. Currently, its venture builder division is developing five businesses, including the super app, Teleport logistics provider, BigPay fintech solution, Biglife loyalty program application, and Santan restaurant franchise.

The AirAsia Supper app is said to be a one-stop application for food delivery, entertainment, shopping, payments, and travel. This follows developments with other apps such as Grab, which began as a ride-sharing site, and has grown into an application for users to make payments and opt for food delivery, among other things, and Gojek, which operates in Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand, and the Philippines.

The app will also allow users to book hotels and flights (from non-AirAsia airlines) and provide a program of travel and lifestyle rewards. The organization is said to have terminated its Expedia agreement and is providing its own travel booking service.

My Malaysia Experience Packages

In Malaysia, the government has suggested that tour promoters develop niche tour packages for domestic tourists. The government would promote such niche tour packages through special brochures that would be published through its web portal. These tour packages are named My Malaysia Experience Packages.

The River of Life project

While COVID-19 has affected tourism, planning work is continuing on tourist sites in Malaysia. One such project is called the ROL (River of Life) Project. This project aims to turn the Klang River into a livable and vibrant waterfront with high economic value. This project is divided into (1) river cleaning, (2) master planning and beautification of the river, and (3) growth of the river. This is not just a tourism aimed project but comprises multiple objectives, one of which is to attract tourism in the future.

So all is not bad, things are going in the right direction, very slowly though. Let us keep alive our hopes for the restoration of freedom of movement for tourism and other activities related to it.