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KUALA LUMPUR: The travel industry has been severely hit by the Covid-19 pandemic and compared to other industries, it might take longer to recover. This was the view shared by many operators in the industry, including Mutiara Taman Negara Kuala Tahan Pahang director of sales and marketing, Kingston Khoo. "As a hotelier and former travel agent, it was heartbreaking to see many of my industry friends being hit hard by the economic effects of Covid-19. But other than offering words of encouragement, there was nothing much else I could do as I was financially impacted myself." But Khoo did one simple act. He created 'Movement Control Order (MCO) Travel Deals', a Facebook page for travel deals in Malaysia to help fellow industry players to reach out to potential customers faster and in a more targeted manner. The page has over 130 industry players offering attractions and hotels or travel companies that are ready to welcome visitors with the strict new norms in health and safety procedures.

"Malaysians looking for local getaways could find what they want in a quicker, cheaper, and safer way. We ensure that we feature only reputed operators that are committed to the 'new normal' in standard operating procedures (SOPs)," he said, adding responses on the page have been very positive with the reopening of domestic travel under the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO). He said Malaysians are already looking forward to a short break to recharge and relax. "There has been keen interest especially for beach and nature destinations," said Khoo, adding there are many inquiries on good value staycation hotels in major cities like Kuala Lumpur, Johor Baru and Penang. Another heartwarming trend is special promotions for front liners in appreciation of their efforts and contributions, as they are the ones who deserve a break.

To date, the MCO Travel Deals Facebook page features 136 deals with almost 1,300 followers in just a few weeks after the page was created on May 20. Among the best promotions on the page are Vouk Hotel Penang, which offers an RM88 per room per night deal. Another highlight is The Danna Langkawi which is going for RM488 per room per night under its Merchant Room deal, which is inclusive of breakfast for two persons (with a complimentary upgrade to the next category subject to availability, as well as other benefits) for stay validity till Aug 31. The Upper View Regalia Hotel KL is also offering its Executive Skyline Room for just RM220 per room per night.

In fact, Mutiara Taman Negara is also offering a stay for just RM230 per room per night (inclusive of breakfast for two persons and an RM30 F&B voucher) for stay validity till June 30 next year, which is normally sold around RM520. Mutiara Taman Negara is set to reopen on June 26 to ensure that they are fully ready for the 'new norm'. "By being a resort that is spread out over a very large area of more than 15 acres (6.07ha) and by being the only resort within the national park boundary, we are very fortunate that social distancing comes 'naturally' for our guests but despite that, we are strictly adhering to the health and safety SOPs set by the relevant ministries under the RMCO," said Khoo. On top of these measures, he added, the resort has SOPs put in place to ensure the safety of guests which include guests' requirements to fill up a short questionnaire prior to arriving, temperature checks and basic screening at the entrance to Taman Negara and resort facilities.

It would also maintain adequate social distancing at all restaurants and public spaces, while jungle activities will be carried out in smaller groups (maximum of 10 persons to a group). All of the activities and attractions will be available except for night jungle tours as they foresee that it would be difficult to ensure social distancing in the dark.

According to him, these promotions might help to get things rolling in the recovery of the travel industry. He added that the Mutiara's Crazy Offer which offers a Buy-Now-Stay-Later deal has been extremely well received with more than 500 bookings in just a few days after its launch. "Based on inquiries we have been receiving, many prefer destinations that are accessible by car and would like to avoid airplanes, trains or ferries. "Fortunately, we fit these criteria as it only takes four and a half hours to drive to Kuala Tahan from Kuala Lumpur where you would just need to cross the Tembeling River (a two- minute boat ride) to get to Taman Negara," he said.

Taman Negara has been known as a must-visit for tourists from all around the world for a couple of decades now. This has prompted many locals to also want to visit this gem in their own backyard. It is one of the oldest rainforests in the world, which is estimated to be 130 million years old, and the largest national park in Asia at 4,343 sq km.

Caption: Mutiara Taman Negara Kuala Tahan Pahang director of sales and marketing, Kingston Khoo.

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