The plan to extend the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) scheme to neighbouring countries such as Thailand and Indonesia will further stimulate Malaysia’s economy as it moves towards the endemic phase of Covid-19, said travel and trade associations.
However, the groups also stressed that a necessary standard operating procedure (SOP) must be put in place to ensure the safety of all travellers amid the rise of the Omicron variant.
The Malaysian-Thai Chamber of Commerce chairperson Dr Hwee Khim Boo said it made sense to start the VTL between Malaysia and Thailand at the Bukit Kayu Hitam-Sadao border checkpoint.
“As long as good SOP is put in place, getting people from Malaysia to Thailand and vice versa will definitely stimulate tourism and the local economy.
“There is nothing to lose, in my opinion,” she said yesterday when asked to comment on the proposal to allow land crossing for tourists at the Bukit Kayu Hitam-Sadao common borders.
The Thai Ambassador to Malaysia Chainarong Keratiyutwong said recently that Thailand was ready to open its doors to Malaysian travellers.
He said that before Covid-19, Malaysia was the second in annual tourist arrivals in his country, with up to four million travellers.
The Malaysian government had previously announced that it was planning to extend the VTL to other neighbouring countries such as Indonesia and Thailand, but this would depend on the country’s Covid-19 situation.
For Indonesia, the Malaysian Inbound Tourism Association (Mita) president Uzaidi Udanis said that Jakarta and Medan should be considered as the starting point to launch a VTL between Malaysia and Indonesia.
He said Mita had conducted a discussion with its counterparts from Indonesia two days ago on how they could move forward in anticipation of a VTL.
“The critical city point will be Jakarta, for obvious reasons, and also Medan. This is because those coming from Medan will have to transit in Jakarta first before heading to Langkawi. “It will be a good opportunity if they can fly directly from Medan,” he explained.
Uzaidi pointed out that prior to the border closure, many business and corporate travellers from Medan travelled to Penang for medical tourism purposes.
“It is an important segment for us, especially those coming from the middle-income and business groups.
“They are happy with the pricing and cost of hotels as well as services here in Malaysia,” he added.
The Malaysian Association of Tour & Travel Agents (MATTA) secretary-general Faeez Fadhlillah said that it would be good to open more VTL points, including with Indonesia, as the country was among the top five sources of tourists for Malaysia.
“If you want the tourism industry to recover, it is important to extend the VTL with Indonesia,” he said.
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