Top News Malaysia tour operators ramp up operations in view of possible border reopening By S Puvaneswary / Posted on 14 February, 2022 4:25 Tour operators in Malaysia are getting ready for the possible reopening of the country’s international borders, with efforts being ploughed into staff training, itinerary revisions and reconnection with business networks. This follows the National Recovery Council’s (NRC) recommendation last week to the Malaysian government to reopen borders as early as March 1, 2022 to spur economic recovery. However, the final decision remains with the Cabinet, and on February 11, prime minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said the Cabinet had yet to discuss the NRC’s recommendation. The Health Ministry too had yet to provide its feedback on the recommendation to the Cabinet for evaluation. Malaysian tour operators are ramping up operations to be ready for a possible reopening soon; Cameron Highlands pictured While policymakers decide on their stand, Asian Overland Services Tours & Travel is preparing to renew permits for its coaches and vans, which have been out of service for the past two years. Managing director Yap Sook Ling said there are also plans to increase operations manpower as well as begin staff training. Ping Anchorage Travel & Tours is revising its itineraries to feature more open-air dining venues, accommodation in small island resorts, as well as off-the-beaten-track destinations in Pahang, Kelantan and Terengganu. CEO Alex Lee believes that travellers will favour less crowded destinations when they return. Expecting the FIT segment to expand, Lee intends to lease more vans to supplement his own fleet of five when demand picks up. Over at Universal Holidays Travel and Tourism, founder and CEO Zahira Tahir has been reconnecting with agents and partners overseas, and is now contracting with hotels and suppliers in Malaysia. She told TTG Asia that agents in India and Pakistan wish to bring incentive groups to Malaysia in 1H2022, but materialisation would depend on the government’s decision on when borders will reopen as well as standard operating procedures (SOPs) for travellers. Zahira opined that the government should give at least a month’s advance notice on the reopening date as well as instructions on what is needed from travellers in terms of Covid-19 tests. Yap added that it was important for arrival SOPs to not be too restrictive, as that would turn potential travellers away. Citing an example, she said daily Covid testing requirements was a hassle to travellers. Tour operators also view the coordinated return of scheduled flights with the reopening will determine the success for Malaysia’s tourism recovery. Meanwhile, Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents president KL Tan has called for the government to develop a recovery roadmap for the industry as well as implement travel bubbles with more countries.