The Penang state government plans to implement a “travel bubble” to revive its tourism sector.
The COVID-19 situation has upended the tourism and travel industry overnight. In a call to mitigate the transmission of the novel virus, the government of Malaysia had taken the crucial step of enforcing a Movement Restriction Order, setting travel bans — both interstate and international, in place. While it is difficult to forecast the exact pathway of recovery for the industry in the long haul, things do seem to be looking up as talks on reviving the tourism sector are underway.
In a similar development, the Penang state government has discussed the possibility of implementing a “travel bubble” approach to boost the state’s tourism sector. The strategy is said to mimic the same model currently being discussed in Australia and New Zealand to help re-invigorate the local tourism sector while adapting to the new normal. With the “travel bubble” concept, tourism activities would be allowed to take place in a safe or protected perimeter between two travel destinations - or countries or states - already declared as green zones that are relatively free of recent COVID-19 infections.
Penang Tourism, Arts, Culture and Heritage Committee chairman Yeoh Soon Hin announced that the concept was one of the measures studied in efforts to boost the state’s tourism industry. Should the “travel bubble” be implemented, countries that Penang could collaborate with include Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei, Australia and New Zealand. Currently, Vietnam has been free from COVID-19 infections for more than two months, rendering the country safe to visit, and safe to receive visitors from there. Meanwhile Singapore, Brunei, Australia and New Zealand have just been officially designated as green zones by the government of Malaysia.
There is much to look forward to should the “travel bubble” concept be implemented, especially in the projected boost to state and national economy. However, its progress should be monitored closely. States must ensure that they remain in green zones before opening their tourism borders to welcome others. It would be a waste should COVID-19 infection rates climb up again after the nation’s efforts in combating its spread.
"This could be a viable solution to begin with, rather than opening all our borders at once and risking transmission again, which will bring us back to square one and bring to waste the efforts to contain the virus which took us months long," said Yeoh. As it is, everyone around the world has to adapt to the new norm, which would be prudent practice to ensure infection is curbed as the travel and tourism industry opens up again.