Malaysia has steadfastly refused to open its borders to international tourists since March 2020, however, so this likely won’t have quite the impact the headlines might suggest.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added another four entries to its growing list of highest-risk destinations for travel on Tuesday, February 22, including Malaysia.
The CDC places a destination at “Level 4: Covid-19 Very High” risk when more than 500 cases per 100,000 residents are registered in the past 28 days. The CDC advises travellers to avoid vacations to Level 4 countries.
It’s not like Malaysia was welcoming throngs of global tourists before Tuesday, anyway. Even the cumbersome and convoluted Langkawi Travel Bubble has been, by nearly all accounts, a flop. So in reality, Malaysia’s arrival on the Level 4 list of places to avoid — which already has a near-ridiculous 140 other countries on it — won’t make much of an impact on the country’s inbound tourism, if it affects it at all. Frankly, with so many places on the CDC’s highest-risk list, the entire exercise almost becomes self-defeating on its face.
According to CNN, “Before the pandemic, Malaysia was a travel hot spot, renowned for its beaches, cuisine, mix of cultures, and the cosmopolitan capital of Kuala Lumpur.” The US news site goes on to say that like some other destinations in Asia, Malaysia has taken a very cautious approach to reopening to tourists, noting that US citizens still aren’t allowed to visit for nonessential travel. This is also the status noted in the latest update from the US Embassy in Malaysia.
The other three countries added to the list are unlikely to be noted with much sadness by travellers. Bhutan has long been an appealing destination, but one that’s very hard to actually visit owing to strict controls on how tourism in the small country is handled. The other two, Brunei and Iran, probably don’t have widespread appeal to Western vacationers, anyway.
Malaysia always has fared very well from a tourism perspective, though, so we remain hopeful that the government will open the borders in the second quarter of 2022 as they’ve indicated, and make travel to the country minimally cumbersome.
Other tourist favourites which have languished on the CDC’s Level 4 list of placed to avoid for even longer include Mexico, Canada, France, Peru, Singapore, and Spain. The United Kingdom has been there since July 2021.
You can view the CDC’s risk levels for any global destination on its travel recommendations page.
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