Now that 225 million vaccine shots have been given worldwide, it is high time that Malaysia seriously considers opening its borders to all the tourist and business travellers who have been vaccinated. The number of vaccinated people will be increasing as time goes by and we should not hesitate to move forward.
All our decisions to open up the economy including restaurant dine-ins and so on are done to balance the risk of transmission versus economic survival. Several countries around the world have opened their borders to vaccinated travellers, allowing them to skip the quarantine from early this year, with more to follow suit.
Tourism is the third biggest contributor to Malaysia’s GDP, after manufacturing and commodities. In 2018, tourism contributed RM94.5 billion or 5.9 per cent of the country’s GDP. The air transport industry, including airlines and its supply chain, are estimated to support US$5.2 billion of GDP in Malaysia. In total, 3.5 per cent of the country’s GDP is supported by inputs to the air transport sector and foreign tourists arriving by air.
Unfortunately, both these industries have recorded massive losses, debt restructuring, layoffs, bailouts, and even bankruptcy last year at great expense to our country’s economy.
Malaysia could revive and rejuvenate its tourism and airline industries if we capitalise on this opportunity. If we are the first Asian country to open up our borders, we will be able to capture all the tourists who wish to travel after being in lock down for so long.
With the Meeting, Incentives, Conferencing and Exhibitions (MICE) sector allowed to reopen, this is also an opportunity to attract business travellers and revitalise the country’s international trade.
Globally, there are already discussions afoot among major airline players around the world on the implementation of a health travel pass or a vaccination passport. The countries that have opened their borders require a vaccination passport and some of them require a negative PCR test from 72 hours before.
All we need to do is emulate, and maybe refine, the strategies and safety measures implemented by these countries, and this needs to be done immediately to boost our country’s economy.
If we wait until next year to open our borders, the negative economic impact to the tourism and airline industries, and by extension our country, could be irreversible by then.
I strongly urge the government to consider opening the borders of Malaysia so we don’t miss out on a golden opportunity that might serve as a lifeline. While we should not lose focus in battling the pandemic, we should also be thinking of ways to relieve the huge hit our economy took last year.
Rajiv Rishyakaran is the state assemblyman for Bukit Gasing.
- This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.