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Travel bubbles and health passports

KUALA LUMPUR (Feb 27): One industry that needs to be “resuscitated” from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is the tourism segment.

It is with this in mind that plans are afoot for the setting up of travel bubbles and as vaccinations take off, the introduction of vaccine passports or travel passes.

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Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri told The Edge Malaysia in its report this week of potential air bubbles for Langkawi, Indonesia and China.

“We are looking forward to restarting leisure travel by introducing a travel bubble between Langkawi and Indonesia, hopefully by the second quarter of this year. In addition, Qatar Airways is currently in discussions with the Langkawi Development Authority to promote the island as the main destination for international travellers,” she revealed.

“While international borders are still closed, the vaccination programmes that have been rolled out worldwide has shown a [glimmer] of hope for the return of international tourism. The government is actively discussing the possibility of a travel bubble with China, and in the process of finalising an agreement with Indonesia on a Reciprocal Green Lane/Travel Corridor Arrangement between both countries, aiming to revitalise the tourism and culture industry,” Nancy said.

She stated that the Tourism Recovery Plan announced last year is meant “to revive the domestic tourism industry by focusing on strategic collaborations and smart partnerships with home-based airline companies, tourism-related agencies, including services/ hospitality, transportation, private companies, as well as collaborations with non-government organisations such as the Malaysian Association of Hotels, Malaysia Budget Hotel Association, Malaysian Association of Tour & Travel Agents, and Malaysian Inbound Tourism Association”.

Going forward, “the government is also mulling the issuance of a Covid-19 vaccine passport for those who have been vaccinated to ease the travel restrictions and revive the aviation sector within the region,” Nancy added.

Meanwhile, The Edge also reported that “airlines and airports are pushing countries around the world to introduce vaccine passports or travel passes as well as travel bubbles to hasten the reopening of borders and allow international travel to resume”.

“A lot of people are not travelling simply because they don’t know whether they are allowed to travel. A lot of airlines were approaching us and saying, ‘Look, how can we get this information to our customers because we know people want to travel but they don’t know whether they can travel’. At the same time, the governments were asking us if we could provide a secure means of verification,” explained International Air Transport Association (IATA) regional vice-president for Asia-Pacific, Conrad Clifford.

It has been reported that the global airlines’ grouping is developing an IATA Travel Pass.

So far, Malaysia Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Air New Zealand, Copa Airlines, Etihad Airways, Emirates, Qatar Airways and RwandAir are some of the carriers that have stated their support for the implementation of the IATA Travel Pass.

Malaysia Airlines announced last Wednesday about its Digital Travel Health Pass, which will be integrated with its mobile app and “incorporate some modules of the IATA Travel Pass”.

Read the full report in this week’s The Edge Malaysia

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