Sarawak exploring green bubble travel, vaccination passports to boost tourism sector recovery

Abdul Karim (left) speaking to reporters after chairing the Sarawak Tourism Steering Committee Meeting 2021.

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By Nancy Nais

KUCHING, March 16: Sarawak is exploring the possibility of creating green bubble travel directly with neighbouring countries such as Singapore and Brunei, and of utilising vaccination passports as a way forward in post-Covid-19 recovery.

However, Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said the devolution of power is still under discussion under the 3rd Sarawak Tourism Master Plan as it involves the federal-state negotiation on the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).

“We are working with the federal government on the devolution of power to allow authorities at state-level to approve applications for tourism-related licensing and to issue licences such as tourist guide licences. We are also following up closely with Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture Malaysia (MOTAC).

“We have sent our ideas to the Singapore High Commission. Perhaps one day we can have a special arrangement with them but at this moment, we have not officially met or sat down to discuss this matter,” he said after chairing the Sarawak Tourism Steering Committee Meeting 2021 (STSC) here today.

Although this would be one way to expedite the recovery of the state’s tourism sector, Abdul Karim warned that there is also a need to restore visitors’ confidence in travel while focusing on reviving domestic tourism.

He asserted that presently, everyone has the fear of traveling abroad and the restrictions imposed in respective countries.

“As we are all aware, no one wants to open their doors for visitors at this moment. Same goes to us here in Sarawak and Malaysia.

“Therefore, the gradual rollout of Covid-19 vaccines is expected to help restore visitor confidence in travel, to ease travel restrictions and to slowly normalise travel in 2021,” he said, adding that the Malaysian government is giving top priority to safeguarding the safety and well-being of the people by trying to secure a steady supply of Covid-19 vaccines as soon as possible to cover more than 80 per cent of the country’s population.

This, he said, will definitely bring new hope for Malaysia to exit the Covid-19 crisis and allow the country to gradually recover.

“For Sarawak, the state government aims to complete its vaccination program by August 2021. Therefore domestic travel within Malaysia and Sarawak is expected to slowly recover in the second half of 2021.

“We anticipate total visitor arrival of 1.1 million with an estimated tourism receipt of RM2.64 billion receipts. However, this estimated target will depend very much on the Covid-19 global situation as well,” Abdul Karim said. — DayakDaily