Ex-minister wants ban on inter-state travel lifted to save Sabah, Sarawak tourism industry

Datuk Seri Abdul Rahman Dahlan speaks during a press conference in Petaling Jaya August 18, 2020. ― Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
Datuk Seri Abdul Rahman Dahlan speaks during a press conference in Petaling Jaya August 18, 2020. ― Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

KOTA KINABALU, Feb 8 — The tourism industry which is one of the biggest contributors to Sabah’s revenue has been severely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Since the movement control order (MCO) was enforced in March last year, many in the tourism industry had lost their jobs while many hotels as well as travel and tour companies had closed down.

Many more could cease operation if the situation with the Covid-19 pandemic does not improve, lamented former Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Abdul Rahman Dahlan.

Abdul Rahman in a posting on his Facebook account said that the state and federal governments should help out the tourism industry financially to ensure that it continues to survive as this could have a detrimental effect on the state’s economy.

The Umno Tuaran chief pointed out that the gloomy effect on the economy will take years to fully recover, which is why there is a need to find ways to assist Sabah and Sarawak’s tourism industry.

“I have two suggestions for the state and federal governments to consider as part of the efforts to revive the two east Malaysian states’ tourism industry. Firstly, the government needs to lift the inter-state travel ban from Peninsular Malaysia to Sabah and Sarawak.

“Allow the rakyat to travel from Peninsular Malaysia to Sabah and Sarawak without the necessity of a police permit or special permission,” he said, pointing out that inter state travel in Peninsular Malaysia can be done via road while Sabah and Sarawak are only accessible by air travel.

He said the SOP for those traveling to Sabah is very tight and this includes a ‘negative’ swab test result for the Covid-19 virus three days before their departure date.

This is proof that passengers flying to Sabah are free from Covid-19 and the same SOP is applied for those travelling from Sabah to Peninsular Malaysia, they must undergo a swab test before taking their flight.

Abdul Rahman added that all hotels in Sabah have also implemented the necessary SOP and the level of compliance is high.

“I therefore propose that the federal government not only allow travel to Sabah and Sarawak but to also promote domestic tourism in these two states. The state government on its part should allow the tourism industry to operate but under strict compliance to the SOP.

“The hotels, travel agencies, tour operators, airlines and tourism industry players in Sabah and Sarawak must, it they have not yet, establish a collaboration urgently and their effort must be coordinated by the state and federal tourism ministries,” said Abdul Rahman.

According to him, hoteliers in Sabah and Sarawak have reduced their room rates and airlines can complement their efforts by also reducing their fares so that more people from Peninsular Malaysia will travel to these two states for a holiday.

Other than the expensive air fare, another issue that deters people from Peninsular Malaysia from travelling to Sabah and Sarawak for a holiday is the cost of the Covid-19 swab test.

“Currently a swab test costs from RM100 to RM150 for a RTK-Antigen test. Imagine if a family of five wants to travel to Sabah or Sarawak for a holiday, they need to spend a minimum of RM500 for the swab test.

“This is only for a one-way travel. They need to undergo another swab test before flying home thus the tests only will cost the family at least RM1,000 and this means extra expenses for their holiday.

“I suggest that hotels, airlines and clinics put their heads together to find a way to reduce the cost for a swab test to a minimum. I know all this is easier said than done but we need to think out of the box when we consider the effects to Sabah and Sarawak’s economy as well as the burden on the tourism industry,” he said. — Borneo Post

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