The government is unlikely to opt for selective border reopening to help revive the tourism industry, according to Sarawak Tourism Minister Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah.
Commenting on Thailand’s move to allow foreign tourists into selected areas, Karim told FMT he believed the Malaysian government was more concerned with the safety of citizens than with attracting tourist dollars.
It is believed that Thailand will start a travel scheme on Oct 1 that will allow people from areas of low Covid-19 risk to travel to its tourist destinations.
Initially, only Phuket Island will be opened to foreign tourists under a pilot project. Tourists will have to undergo 14 days of quarantine before being allowed to travel around the island.
Those who complete three weeks on Phuket and test negative for Covid-19 would be allowed to travel to other parts of Thailand.
“Malaysia, especially Sarawak, is strict on the movement of visitors, especially foreigners,” said Karim.
“The safety of citizens is more important and we’d rather wait until the virus is curtailed before we reopen the borders,” he added.
Malaysian Association of Hotels president Mohamad Halim Merican said it would be difficult for Malaysia to adopt a scheme similar to Thailand’s because the two countries have different tourist profiles.
He said spending 14 days in quarantine would not be a problem to visitors to Phuket since it was normal for tourists to stay on the island for months.
He also said reopening borders in the midst of the pandemic would require a lot of internal controls.
“Any influx of foreign tourists will definitely help in the economic recovery. However, it can also mean that more control is required. And the most recent Covid-19 cases are imported ones. It’s hard to control tourists who are not sensitive to the situation and the safety of others,” he said.