Despite the possibility of contracting the coronavirus, which is spreading rapidly thanks to the highly transmissible Delta variant, tourism and travel operators in Sabah are hoping that the government will allow them to reopen for business as soon as possible, and not just for those who have completed the Covid-19 vaccination.
Accommodation providers, tour and diving operators, and others claimed the last few months had been a struggle to keep afloat as they dipped into their savings or cut costs to pay the bills.
Ting, a homestay operator, said, “We've been maintaining our place the whole time so we’re ready to open anytime. It’s just a matter of the SOPs now.”
He then told Malay Mail, “Of course there is some concern, but we have and will continue to do everything to minimise those risks. We cannot just wait until there are no more cases or everyone is vaccinated. That will never happen.”
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Sanitizing the property before and after each guest, as well as following the other SOPs, is a normal procedure for accommodation providers. However, they have little control over how the guests act and distance themselves during their stay.
Regardless of concerns, the sheer number of tourist sector participants that are closing down, either permanently or temporarily, is a reason to reopen the market as soon as possible.
Bob, a travel operator, said, “We need to open, just to stay alive for now. We have already done everything we can think of ― apply for grants, change our business strategy, run promotions for later, sell unnecessary assets. We are down to the bare minimum of staff for now. What else can we do?”
He added, “With the vaccination programme and those vaccinated allowed to travel, I think we should open now. Yes, there are risks, but people losing their jobs and livelihoods are also a big deal. It’s not just a risk but a reality now.”
Bob explained that his company, which originally operated nature and dive tours, needed to diversify and began selling travel and workout equipment in their store.
Another Semporna accommodation and dive operator said the effort to open up domestic tourism was encouraging, and that it may also be open to interstate travel if SOPs were strict.