Focus of tourism players should be on inter-district travel bubble, says Sabah minister

KOTA KINABALU: Inter-district travel bubble packages should be the focus of local tourism players as the state eased its restrictions for domestic tourism, says a Sabah minister.

State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Jafry Ariffin said tourism operators were now encouraged to work on tourism bubble programmes in the reopening of tourism activities.

He said his ministry will encourage tourism companies to develop bubbles between the inter-district areas.

“We will wait for them to put in their applications,” he said Saturday (Sept 11) when asked about the easing of tourism activities in the state under Phase Two of the National Recovery Plan (NRP).

He said most tour operators are keen to use the available travel bubble programmes but they will have to meet standard operating procedures (SOPs) before approvals are given.

He said there were three applications for the local travel bubble that are being considered so far.

Meanwhile, Sabah Association of Tour and Travel Agents (SATTA) president Datuk Seri Winston Liaw said the government should consider expanding the districts into bigger zones as done previously.

He said previously, Kota Kinabalu City, Penampang and Putatan districts as Zone One was expanded to include Kota Belud and Ranau.

“This would encourage movement among people and people will be more encouraged to travel.

“If it is allowed only within the districts, not many will be interested,” he said, adding that the concept of a travel bubble aimed at checking on the spread of Covid-19 could still be used if the state government introduced enlarged zones.

“People are likely to travel more if they are going out of their own districts,” he added.

On Friday (Sept 10), state Covid-19 spokesman Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun said tourism rules were being eased to help the industry.

Among the SOPs were for all operators, their staff and visitors to be fully vaccinated with hotels allowed to open their rooms for visitors from the same district.

Hotels previously were allowed to operate for quarantine purposes.

Sabah continues to record above 2,000 Covid-19 positive cases daily and all 27 districts remained classified in the red zone for the last one month.