Should Langkawi Adopt A Phuket Sandbox Model To Attract Vaccinated Tourists?


Cheng Sim •  Jul 09, 2021

There are many reasons why Langkawi is a popular travel destination in Malaysia. Brimming with relaxing beaches and exciting watersport activities, it's definitely a great place for beach lovers and island seekers alike. With the launch of Phuket Sandbox in July 2021, you might be wondering, "Should Langkawi adopt a Phuket Sandbox model to attract vaccinated tourists?" Let's find out!

What is Phuket Sandbox?

On 1 July 2021, Thailand launched its first pilot 'island tourism' model called Phuket Sandbox that allows fully vaccinated tourists to enter Phuket without quarantine. Since travelling during COVID-19 pandemic is a top concern, Tourism Authority of Thailand has implemented several requirements, so vaccinated tourists can travel to Phuket with confidence.

P.S. Inspired to travel to Phuket? Find out whether Malaysians are eligible to travel via Phuket Sandbox.

What are the travel and quarantine requirements for Phuket Sandbox? 

  • Only international tourists from low to medium risk countries are allowed to enter Phuket
  • Tourists need to be fully vaccinated by COVID-19 vaccines approved by Ministry of Public Health and World Health Organisation. The list includes Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Janssen, Moderna, Sinopharm, and Sinovac-CoronaVac.
  • Tourists need to present a negative RT-PCR laboratory test result taken 72 hours before arriving in Phuket.
  • Tourists need to get a COVID-19 health insurance policy with a minimum coverage of USD 100,000 (RM415,250)
  • Fill out the Certificate of Entry
  • No quarantine required, but you need to stay in Phuket for 14 days. If you're planning a short stay, you can leave Phuket before the 14 days period.
  • For travellers who want to visit destinations outside of Phuket, you need to stay in Phuket for at least 14 days before travelling to other provinces like Krabi, Koh Samui, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, and more.
  • Tourists need to stay in SHA Plus-certified hotels that guarantee public health measures are adhered to and more than 70% staff have been vaccinated.

Why Langkawi?

Langkawi is an island destination situated off the state of Kedah in Malaysia. Known as the Jewel of Kedah, there are many things to do in Langkawi that includes hiking up to the Telega Tujuh Waterfalls, enjoying a boat tour at Kilim Geoforest Park, and catching the sunset at Pantai Cenang. Malaysia's island destination is also brimming with Instagrammable honeymoon accommodations, private pool villas, duty-free shops, and delicious halal food.

According to Langkawi Development Authority, Langkawi welcomed 3.9 million visitors in 2019 (before the pandemic) and making it one of the most popular tourist destinations in Malaysia.

In March 2021, the Edge Malaysia reported that the Malaysian and Indonesian governments were in talks of a possible Langkawi-Indonesia leisure travel bubble that was originally aimed for the second quarter of 2021. In July 2021, Qatar Airways has also expressed their readiness to the Langkawi Development Authority to establish a travel bubble with Langkawi.

According to Tourism, Arts, and Culture Minister Nancy Shukri, Langkawi will make perfect destination to test Malaysia's first pilot island tourism model, thanks to its small population, geographical location, as well as having single exit and entry points at Langkawi International Airport and ferry terminal.

What's the COVID-19 situation in Langkawi?

As of July 2021, Langkawi has recorded fewer than 10 daily cases. Compared to other states in Malaysia, Langkawi is performing comparably well due to the island's small population of 65,000 citizens. For live updates on COVID-19 cases in Langkawi, refer to Malaysia Kini's COVID-19 News Lab.

Should Langkawi adopt a Phuket Sandbox model to attract vaccinated tourists?

The short answer is, that depends. Adopting a Phuket Sandbox model would require many preparations from the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture Malaysia.

Vaccinating a majority of Langkawi's population

Just like Phuket Sandbox, the first step to instill travel confidence is by vaccinating a majority of Langkawi's population. It's a move acknowledged by Kedah Menteri Besar Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor who said that the state government needs to work with relevant authorities including the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry (MOTAC) and the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry (MOSTI) to inoculate 61,000 of Langkawi residents with at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

Proposing a health and safety certification for Langkawi hotels

The second step is to propose and implement a health and safety certification for hotels in Langkawi. Phuket Sandbox shows an example of how it can be done. All tourists who are travelling via Phuket Sandbox must stay in a SHA Plus-certified hotel, a Safety and Health Administration certification guaranteeing that the accommodation adheres to public health measures, and have more than 70% staff being vaccinated.

In February 2020, Singapore also introduced a SG Clean campaign where certified hotels and tourism premises commit to raising their hygiene standards and fulfilling the health check list, which includes temperature checks, frequent disinfection for all facilities, and more.

Travelling with digital passports

The third step is to implement digital passports for domestic and international tourism activities. There's a possibility that MySejahtera app will be used as a digital passport for domestic travel in Malaysia. Currently, fully vaccinated citizens in Malaysia are able to show a yellow COVID-19 Vaccination Digital Certificate from the app. In June 2021, Singapore and Malaysia were in talks to recognised MySejahtera app as a digital passport to enter Singapore, which makes a great start!

Travelling to Langkawi may not be in the cards for now, but there's definitely hope that leisure travel will return to our shores once the country tides over the pandemic.