PETALING JAYA: The Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) programme should be extended to connect visitors to more destinations, say travel industry players.

Following the resumption of the Malaysia-Singapore VTL, they are of the opinion that Malaysia should act fast to cater to the growing demand for travel while ensuring standard operating procedures are in place but not too prohibitive.

“We need to have a balance in safeguarding the people’s health and also reviving the economy,” said Malaysian Tourism Council president Uzaidi Udanis.

The VTL programme, he said, had been successful but it should be expanded to more destinations.

“I did not see VTL arrival in other places besides Kuala Lumpur.

“We need to let tourists go to more places, such as Perak, Penang, Kuching or Kota Kinabalu so that more economic spillover effects can take place,” he said.

On Wednesday, Transport Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong announced that sales of flight and bus tickets under the Malaysia-Singapore VTL programme had resumed to full capacity with immediate effect.

Air travel between both countries would resume immediately, while bus travel would start from Feb 22.

Dr Wee said the VTL initiative had led to more international travel and this had helped boost the tourism sector and the economy, adding that both countries are in advanced discussions on expanding the VTL by air to Penang and KK.

Uzaidi said more VTL arrangements, if not a full border opening, should be in place.

“We are in need of a new lease of life following improved vaccination and booster dose administration in many countries.

“The eventual opening up of our borders will be the ultimate thing we are hoping for,” he said.

Uzaidi, who is also Malaysian Inbound Tourism Association (Mita) president, felt that inbound tourism conditions had been strict.

“For example, no tourists from any Asean country are allowed into Malaysia unless via the Langkawi travel bubble or Malaysia-Singapore VTL arrangements.

“Although some conditions for international arrival have been somewhat relaxed, such as the quarantine period and insurance coverage amount, we need to go further as our neighbour Thailand is enjoying better tourist arrival with less stringent SOP,” he said.

The government, he said, should also appoint travel agents to offer packages to cater to the Langkawi bubble travellers.

The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) said the opening of the VTL programme would provide some much-needed stimulus, especially to Johor.

MATTA secretary-general Nigel Wong said he was hopeful for the VTL programme to encourage more Singaporean tourists to visit other destinations in Malaysia, especially when the VTL is extended to other cities.

“If the VTL continues, it may have a positive effect on the Johor MATTA Fair which will be organised later this year,” he said.

The MATTA Fair in Kuala Lumpur is set to take place in April.

Ng noted that the industry is keen to see the stringent travel restrictions being lifted to encourage more tourist arrivals, citing an abolishment of quarantine.

“The government has done well in the management of the vaccination roll-out and should not stall any longer the decision to reopen borders,” he said.