Local tourism players turning corner with easing of interstate travel restrictions

Ferguson (standing second right) together with VIPs and invited guests at the reopening of Sarawak Cultural Village yesterday (July 4, 2020)

SANTUBONG, July 5: The Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO) which allows interstate travel augurs well for tourism industry players in Sarawak.

Sara Hospitality Sdn Bhd managing director Mark Ferguson said the lifting of travel restrictions is significant for the industry because it marks the beginning of the recovery for domestic tourism.

“Initially everyone was pessimistic when our country was hit with the Covid-19 pandemic, followed by Movement Control Order (MCO). We didn’t know what will it be like or what will happen.

“Based on world travel organisations and projections, there is going to be very little on tourist arrivals until the end of 2020 or even as late as mid-2021,” Mark told DayakDaily when met at the Sarawak Cultural Village reopening ceremony yesterday.

He said many in the industry were apprehensive and wondering how will they cope with the changed market landscape.

Three months of restricted movement flattened the curve of the pandemic in Malaysia, leading the government to begin to lift travel restrictions, including those on interstate movements.

“Our city hotel Grand Margherita was opened to the public on June 10. From just one guest that day, eventually it grew to 22 and then 50. Effective July 1, more flights have resumed and people are coming in, so hopefully we will get more visitors from other towns and eventually from other states.

“For our resorts such as the one at Damai Beach, it is a different story. What we have seen since last week was the surge (in demand) and eagerness from Kuching people or even those from other districts to go out and come here,” Ferguson said, adding that people were desperate to get out and see nature after being ‘stuck at home’ for about three months.

He revealed that Damai Beach’s occupancy rate was about 44 per cent last week, which he sees as a good sign.

Mark Ferguson

Judging by the amount of vehicles coming in and filling up their car park, Ferguson revealed they are now optimistic that things will slowly return to normal with visitors coming to the resort.

“We have always been ready for the return of tourists or visitors. During the initial first week of the MCO, we started planning our strategy, even relooking at operations and redesigning our menu for what people would want post-RMCO.”

On the reopening of Sara Hospitality’s hotels, Ferguson gave assurance that the group is strictly adhering to the government’s standard operating procedure (SOP) in reference to safety, health and hygiene practices for Covid-19 and other guides involving the new norm of hotel operations that were benchmarked against the Health Ministry’s requirements.

“We have long prepared for this day to come. In fact, all of our staff have been with us and we did not retrench anyone. They’ve been working hard on a daily basis by cleaning the properties to ensure a safe stay for our visitors,” he highlighted. — DayakDaily