Opening of Langkawi: Litmus test for reviving tourism industry devastated by Covid-19

If given a choice, Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri would like to see tourist destinations in the country open to all.

But she is mindful of the Covid-19 pandemic. And her ministry had been tasked to use Langkawi as a model for what could be the first step to rekindling the love for Malaysian destinations.

Malaysia’s multimillion-ringgit tourism industry had been badly hit by the pandemic since the nation shut its borders in March 2020.

“It breaks my heart to see those in the industry losing their jobs,” said Nancy, during a press conference announcing the reopening of Langkawi’s tourism sector.

“We need to help those who lost their jobs. Let’s use Langkawi as a door to open up opportunities.”

As the nation’s borders remained closed to international tourists, Nancy mentioned in passing that this new normal could get more locals to appreciate Malaysian sights and sounds.

Travel to Langkawi under this initiative might seem troublesome to some – it is only open to those who have been fully vaccinated. Travellers must obtain a police permit, and visitors (except those from Kedah and Perlis) must go through a travel agent, or fly there.

The idea is to ensure that travellers head straight to Langkawi and not make any pit stops along the way. This is to also ensure that movement can be effectively monitored at the borders by the police. The use of tour agents was the ministry’s way of enabling them to earn a living.

“I also hope that those who are there in Langkawi adhere to the standard operating procedures (SOPs). These steps are a must as we need to take care of ourselves and those around us,” added Nancy.

Nancy was quick to remind the press that other tourist destinations in the country were open – but only to those within the respective states, as interstate travel (with the exception of travel within Kuala Lumpur, Selangor and Putrajaya) is still prohibited.

Local tourists can take advantage of the various promotions offered by airlines, hotels, and homestay operators, with great deals to suit every budget.

From beautiful flora and fauna to modern malls carrying chic designer brands, Malaysia has everything for everyone, and over the decades, had been a must-visit destination for millions from around the globe.

Pre-Covid-19 days, Malaysia was a popular destination among tourists from the Middle East, China, and India, who flocked to Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Melaka and other destinations. Sabah and Sarawak were also popular, especially with those from China, Japan, and Europe.

When flying was once a luxury, Malaysians would spend their holidays at the many tourist spots nationwide. Memories – like idyllic beach getaways in Port Dickson, the cool and calming vistas of Taiping, or trekking in the lush Lambir Hills of Miri – are still etched in the hearts and minds of many.

It is hoped that this ‘Jom Cuti-Cuti Malaysia’ campaign would help rejuvenate the domestic tourism industry and provide a much-needed and welcome respite for a pandemic-weary population.