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Tourists are seen on Chenang Beach in Langkawi June 12, 2020. — Bernama pic
Tourists are seen on Chenang Beach in Langkawi June 12, 2020. — Bernama pic

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KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 14 — If Malaysia Airlines’ ticket sales are anything to go by, the reopening of Langkawi to vaccinated travellers is already a success.

Tickets sales saw an uptick following the airline’s special promotion of RM89 for all-in-fare to Langkawi, said group chief executive officer of Malaysia Aviation Group, Captain Izham Ismail.

“We have seen a surge in demand (ticket sales) for KUL-LGK since the announcement of the Pulau Langkawi (to reopen under the) travel bubble (plan) was made by the government and following our special promotions of flight tickets going for as low as RM89 for all-in-fare and discounted travel packages of up to 50 per cent through our operating arm, MHholidays.

“Some flights, especially on weekends and public holidays, have recorded full load,” he told Malay Mail when contacted.

Langkawi has been given the go-ahead to be the first tourist destination in the country to reopen as part of a travel bubble pilot project starting September 16.

Following the announcement, Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin also said that those flying to the island do not need permission letters from the police.

Opting for a more luxurious hotel stay

The Kedah/Perlis branch of Malaysian Association of Hotels’ (MAH) vice-president Razmi Rahmat said about 50 member hotels are ready to receive guests.

“After the announcement we received an encouraging number of bookings for our 4- to 5-star hotels.

“Although the price is a bit higher, we believe that most of these travellers, wanting to travel but can’t go abroad, have chosen to treat themselves to a nice holiday at our hotels since the prices that we’re offering are very reasonable,” said Razmi.

He added that 3-star hotels under the group are not doing as well because of the hindrance of self-driving and lack of ferry trips to the island.

“We will be able to see the difference after September 19 when the enhanced movement control order (EMCO) in Kuala Kedah is lifted.

“Right now, due to the EMCO, all ferries to Langkawi Island from Kuala Kedah have stopped, leaving only the ferry from Kuala Perlis which only makes one trip per day (following MCO SOP),” he said.

Razmi is, however, hopeful that more will be able to travel to the island as the authorities have agreed to add another ferry (although at 50 per cent capacity) trip.  

Small groups only

Malaysian Association of Tour & Travel Agents (MATTA) Kedah chapter chairman Mohd Yusin Mohd Yatim said not all hotels are ready to take on guests though as they have not been operating for close to two years now.

“Langkawi Island has suffered for the last two years, it is not as easy as waking up and immediately being able to run.

“Some of them will need some help in terms of funds to restart,” he said, hoping for the government to assist these hotel owners.

Yusin pointed out that while it is less of a hassle to fly to the island, not all can afford to do so especially big families.

“We have been receiving bookings for both those who are travelling by flight and self-drive, but I am not expecting big groups, just small families or couples.

“From what I gather from our reps on the island, travellers are still cautious.

“However, I hope that we can work closely with tourist spot operators on a schedule to space out the number of visitors, such as (cable car rides), to encourage physical distancing and prevent crowding,” he said.

Gradual recovery

Island-based travel agency Langkawi Tour by QQ Travel and Tour Sdn Bhd’s managing director Ricky Chan agreed with Yusin, indicating that it will take some time for all hotels to be back in operation.

“Some of the hotels are moving a bit slower due to lack of staff after retrenchment (due to the pandemic) and now they need to retrain newly-hired staff.

“At the same time, some hotels also need some time to do some cost evaluation before they can publish hotel rates.

“So for now, we are working with our existing partners to promote available accommodation for interested travellers,” he said.

Chan is looking forward to a government initiated effort — a collaboration with online shopping platform Shopee — where holiday packages will be offered at discounted rates.  

“We are still waiting for confirmation by Motac (Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture) on the collaboration with Shopee which will start sometime next month.

“This will definitely help promote Langkawi,” said Chan.

He added that after the announcement on the reopening of the island was made, he received many enquiries on bookings.

“So far it’s 50/50 for self-drive and flight. Although the new SOP (standard operating procedure) announced is a convenience for travellers (by flight), some still prefer to drive.

“Langkawi is different from other islands, it is very convenient and it allows travellers to plan their own activities unlike if you go to Redang Island for example… there you are dependent on an agent.

“This is why the self-driving travellers would prefer to come to Langkawi as they are in control of which activities they wish to do,” he said.

Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri said she is hopeful Langkawi will serve as a benchmark for opening more tourist destinations in the country.

With this, Nancy has urged visitors to the island to be responsible and abide by SOPs as their actions will determine the fate of the country’s tourism sector.

She added that Langkawi will be the country’s travel bubble model to enable the government to open more holiday destinations under travel bubbles.

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