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Taman Negara looking forward to operation under new normal - May 25, 2020

JERANTUT: Tourism industry operators in Taman Negara here are gearing up to reopen their businesses under the new normal due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Although tourism activities at the national park, one of the world's oldest tropical rainforests, came to a standstill since March 18, resort and chalet operators along with tour guides looked at things on the bright side. Pahang Tourism and Culture Ministry chairman Datuk Idrus Yahya said the two months Movement Control Order (MCO) has prompted tourism industry operators to revise their business promotions and make the necessary improvements to help lure visitors. "Some of the operators were relying on old tourism advertisements or promotional videos for their products. Now they have produced new ones with fresh ideas. Some even took the opportunity to learn to make their own online videos and advertisements....once they share it with us, we will help them with the promotional campaigns.

"Marketing strategies are crucial for tourism products so the operators have been studying the possible new tourism potentials near the national park and making the necessary adjustments in order to attract tourists. They joined several social media chat groups to brainstorm fresh ideas and assist each other in the industry," he said when contacted. Idrus said in the past that some of the operators might not have been social media savvy but now understood the importance of the platform and seized the opportunity to learn more especially to help promote their business. Meanwhile, he said the operators in Taman Negara were already drafting standard operating procedures (SOP) for tourism activities under the new normal once the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) is lifted.

He said although the National Security Council (NSC) will be responsible for the SOP the guidelines provided by the local tour guides and operators will provide additional measures at the national park. "The experienced tourism operators here certainly know about safety, and interest of the visitors will be given top priority in drafting the SOP. To ensure proper coordination, the SOPs are shared among the tourism operators and non-governmental organizations involved in tourism. "The tourism industry landscape at the national park will certainly see some changes and everyone has to be prepared to face it. The industry might experience some challenging times but everyone has to work together to overcome it," he said.

Meanwhile, a tour guide who declined to be named said although Taman Negara was set to embrace a new tourism environment once the CMCO ends, he hopes that the SOP for visitors will be more lenient. "Visitors come to the rainforest to release stress and enjoy the amazing surroundings. They can practice social distancing but maybe not required to wear face mask....allow visitors to explore the natural environment," he said, adding Taman Negara remained as a green zone with no Covid-19 cases although the Jerantut district was once a red zone. Meanwhile, the PahangStory Facebook page wrote that Kuala Tahan has a total of 2,234 villagers whereby 568 of them rely on the eco-tourism from the national park by taking up jobs as chalet operators, boat operators, tour guides and floating restaurant operators in Sungai Tembeling.Source - NST

Stranded tourists finally leave Pulau Tioman - May 17, 2020

ROMPIN: After being stranded on Pulau Tioman for almost two months, Frenchman Catroux Christian, 67, and his wife, Marie Claire, 66, were among 17 foreign tourists who left the island on Friday, taking with them memories of their long stay there. "I expected nothing special on my 67th birthday on May 1, but it turned out to be the sweetest memory that I will cherish forever," said Christian. He said when he heard a knock on his room door in the morning of May 1, he did not think much of it as he was not expecting any guest, and it was too early for hotel staff to do housekeeping. "The knocking didn't stop. When I opened the door, surprise! Hotel staff sang Happy Birthday, and gave me a cake and asked me to blow the candles. It was unexpected and sweet of them to cheer me and my wife up as we felt a little stressed the day before. "We arrived on the island in the middle of March and planned to stay for a week. We had bought tickets to continue our holiday in Jakarta, Bandung and Bali in Indonesia. However, we got stranded on the island when the Movement Control Order (MCO) was implemented," he said at Tanjung Gemok Jetty here on Friday.

He and his wife said they were grateful to be stranded on Tioman as there were no Covid-19 cases on the island. Frenchman Hobert Benjamin, 42, said the MCO allowed him to experience Malaysian hospitality as hotel staff, the authorities and locals tried their best to ensure he got the best care. "Hotel staff would ask about my condition almost every day and told me not to be shy to ask for help if I needed anything. I tried lots of local food, such as nasi kandar, nasi ayam and kuih, thanks to locals who introduced them to me."

Pahang Human Resources, Youth, Sports and Non-Governmental Organisations Committee chairman Datuk Seri Mohd Johari Hussain said the state government provided a speedboat to take the foreign tourists to the mainland before they boarded a bus to Kuala Lumpur. "They've undergone health screenings, including temperature checks, with the state Health Department and only those who are free from Covid-19 symptoms are allowed to leave. --Bernama

Tourists choose to stay put in city - April 18, 2020

KUALA LUMPUR: The Covid-19 infection has turned the tourism sector upside down, not just in terms of putting a spanner in people’s travel plans but also leading to flight cancellations the world over leaving travellers stranded with little or no money left in their pockets. While reports of such incidents have been hitting the headlines since the pandemic started, there are also cases of travellers who have chosen to remain in the countries that they are visiting. These travellers choose to stay put for many reasons. Some do not want to travel back to their home country and risk getting infected along the way, while others feel it is safer to remain where they are. Others have no choice because their country of origin is on a lockdown or strict movement control order, which saw most airports closed. There are also those who are forced to stay put simply because they do not have the funds for a return trip home. The New Straits Times spoke to several tourists in the city centre to see how they were coping with the Movement Control Order (MCO), which has been in force since the middle of last month.

A backpacker, who wanted to be known only as Elias, was seen walking around the Bukit Bintang area wearing a face mask. The 29-year-old from Belarus said he came to Malaysia about three weeks ago from Vietnam as part of his world tour. “I was in Vietnam for close to half a year, and I have been travelling around the world for more than three years now. “I quit my job as an aviation engineer in order to see the world,” he said, adding that he decided to visit Malaysia as he was in the region. Elias said when he flew here, reports about Covid-19 were not widespread. However, he said, his finances were running low and he was forced to remain in Malaysia. “To be honest, I don’t have much money left. Thankfully, the hostel I am staying at costs only RM19 a day and the owners have allowed me to do odd jobs like helping them clean up, so I don’t have to continue paying for my accommodation. “This is a great relief, especially on my very thin wallet, which is partly why I have chosen to remain here for the moment.”

Elias said he was able to survive in Vietnam for almost half a year because he taught English to the locals to earn some pocket money.  However, as he was unable to work in Malaysia. He has appealed to his friends back home to send him some money. Elias said several other backpackers were in a similar predicament. Despite his situation, Elias remained upbeat, saying he would cope as best as he could. Abdelif Bechker, 53, from France, said he came to Malaysia early last month for a holiday and to look into the possibility of pursuing a joint venture to run a guesthouse here. He said the MCO did not affect him much and that he was thankful to be in good health. “I have a nice, decent place to stay and sufficient funds to survive even though I can’t really go anywhere right now. “I have been in communication with my family back home in New Caledonia. They have asked me to remain where I am for the time being.” Abdelif said he noticed that when the MCO first came into effect, tourists went about the city centre without taking precautions to protect themselves, but things had changed now. “I hope things will get back to normal soon. “If the MCO is not extended and if everything gets back to normal by the end of the month, I hope to proceed with my plans to fly to Manila.”

Meanwhile, a Mexican national, who wished to be known only as Eva, said she had been in the country for quite some time and would fly back once she was able to. “Actually I had the option to return home before Covid-19 caused all this havoc, but I did not do it as I was enjoying myself too much. “However, now I regret my decision,” said Eva, who was seen happily walking along the streets of Kuala Lumpur without wearing a face mask. Source- NST


Pahang hotel stays open for frontliners - April 22, 2020

KUANTAN: Just when most hotels decide to close its doors due to the Covid-19 scare, a hotelier in Indera Mahkota here choose to "remain in business". However, instead of accepting room bookings from guests, the owner Pajan Singh has been providing frontliners battling the Covid-19 pandemic in the state to stay for free at his premises — Veer Hotel — which has 35 rooms. The Civil Defence Force personnel (APM) and National Security Council (NSC) staff have been occupying his premises here since March 25, and the 55-year-old is more than happy to accommodate them until the MCO is lifted. The father-of-three said he understood the struggles faced by some of the frontliners who were required to travel to neighbouring states and various districts in Pahang in order to carry out their duties and even lacked proper rest. "Since my premises was closed due to the MCO and there were rooms available, I decided to offer the frontliners to stay for free. "I informed the Pahang Tourism and Culture Ministry (Motac) chairman (Datuk Idrus Yahya) on March 23 and he shared the news with the relevant parties. "Two days later, an officer from MKN visited the hotel to check on the premises before arrangements were made for a group of APM personnel and MKN staff to move into the building which can accommodate about 80 people.

"I sometimes met some of them at the lobby and they are grateful for the resting facilities," he said today. Pajan who has been in the hotel industry for about eight years, said he was concerned with some of the frontliners who had no access to proper accommodation after a long journey due to work commitments. "Some were having a tough time to find a decent place for a proper shower and rest. "These days, I noticed that some of the personnel would return past midnight and then leave to work early in the morning.... the personnel are sacrificing their time and energy, and being in the hospitality industry, this is my small contribution in assisting them. "We provide the frontliners with the essential room services without any charges. "Since, we have the same group of individuals occupying the rooms, it is a little easier for us to coordinate them during their stay," he said, thanking Motac and the Pahang government for the opportunity to serve the society.

Pajan, who manages the hotel with his wife and 24-year-old daughter, said he had another hotel nearby and was prepared to open the premises for frontliners should the current one reached full occupancy. Meanwhile, Malaysia Budget Hotel Association (MyBHA) deputy president Dr Sri Ganesh Michiel lauded Pajan's decision saying although the industry was badly hit due to the pandemic, some hoteliers were trying to alleviate the burden of the frontliners. "Some hoteliers have offered their premises as quarantine centres for Malaysians returning from overseas while in Pahang, Pajan is offering those battling the pandemic to stay for free. "Malaysians are rallying together to battle the Covid-19 during these tough times." he said. Source-NST

Pulau Tioman residents, tourists well taken care of - April 18, 2020

KUALA LUMPUR: Although it has been stranded on Pulau Tioman since the Movement Control Order (MCO) took effect on March 18, local residents feel safe as the island is free of Covid-19 infections. Kampung Tekek village head Zurkarnaini Hamid said ferry services to Pulau Tioman had been halted during the MCO to ensure no outsiders landed on the island, located off the coast of Pahang. “Thus far, the island is free from Covid-19. No one has tested positive for the virus and we feel safe here. “This is thanks to the movement restrictions imposed here. We want to ensure no one either enters or leaves the island to prevent the spread of the virus. “Like everywhere else in the country, we strictly adhere to the MCO, practice social distancing, stay home and take preventive measures to protect ourselves,” he told the New Straits Times. Zurkarnaini added that frequent police patrols around the island had made the atmosphere safer and secure.

He said some 3,500 residents in six villages — Kampung Tekek, Kampung Salang, Kampung Juara, Kampung Mukut, Kampung Genting, and Kampung Paya — had ample food supply. “Although we cannot leave the island, there is no problem in getting food supply as the grocery stores still operate as usual. “And the authorities are monitoring the situation on the island, too. They will send us aid should we face any problem.” However, he said, villagers had lost their source of income during the MCO as many of them depended on the tourism activities on the island. “They now have to rely on assistance from the federal and state governments, but everything is fine.

“The state government has distributed basic necessities such as rice and cooking oil to the villagers.” On the 85 foreign tourists who were stranded on the Island, Zurkarnaini said their welfare was being taken care of. “They were here before the MCO was enforced. “They chose to stay put because their countries of origin pose a higher risk of Covid-19 infection. “They are staying in chalets and are well taken care of by the operators. “They may leave the island any time they want with the permission of police.” Source-NST

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