Malaysia opening Langkawi to foreigners

Malaysia opening Langkawi to foreigners

Three-month trial programme for vaccinated visitors follows successful local opening

Esther Lee, owner of the Hidden Langkawi restaurant cleans a table as she gets ready to open to domestic tourists in September. (Reuters File Photo)
Esther Lee, owner of the Hidden Langkawi restaurant cleans a table as she gets ready to open to domestic tourists in September. (Reuters File Photo)

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is set to reopen the tourist haven of the Langkawi islands to overseas visitors, under a pilot international tourism bubble project that will run for three months.

The government has approved protocols for international tourists to enter the islands without quarantine, Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said in a statement on Friday. Visitors must be “high-yield”, fully vaccinated, and stay for at least three days, among other requirements.

Langkawi reopened to domestic travellers since mid-September and authorities have been satisfied with the results.

Malaysia will evaluate the pilot project before emulating it in other tourist destinations throughout the country, Ismail said. The statement didn’t say when the project would begin, and the Prime Minister’s Office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Malaysia is following in the footsteps of neighbouring countries such as Thailand and Singapore in easing quarantine rules for inoculated visitors, as the region seeks to recover from the global pandemic.

Tight movement restrictions for most of the year tipped Malaysia’s gross domestic product into a quarterly contraction during April-June. 

Malaysia’s speedy vaccine rollout in recent months has helped the country turn a corner. The states of Terengganu and Johor will transition to the final phase of the national recovery plan from Monday, joining Kuala Lumpur and Selangor, Ismail said. 

The government also approved rules for allowing migrant workers to re-enter Malaysia on a case-by-case basis, he said.

Last week, Malaysia ended a months-long ban on interstate travel after the country reached its target of vaccinating 90% of the adult population. The government also allowed citizens to travel overseas without prior approval. 

The government expects to fully reopen its domestic economy by the end of 2021, and return to pre-pandemic growth next year, Finance Minister Zafrul Abdul Aziz said last week.

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