Langkawi shuts down for first time in 33 years

LANGKAWI: This would have been the peak season for tourist arrivals, but this year, practically no one is visiting the resort island.

All entertainment outlets, hotels and every other business that caters to the needs and desires of tourists have stopped operations.

In fact, this is the first time that Langkawi has effectively shut down since it was granted duty-free status 33 years ago.

Langkawi Development Authority (Lada) chief executive officer Dr Hezri Adnan said about 60% of the island’s revenue is drawn from tourism and related sectors. “Now this is under threat,” he told theSun.

“Everyone is affected – from yacht owners to water sports operators. Everything has come to a standstill,” he added.

Even the port is not spared. It used to handle an average of 1,200 metric tonnes of cargo a day, but now with the MCO in place, it hardly makes 200 metric tonnes, and it is mostly food items.

Ferry service from Kuala Perlis and Kuala Kedah has been reduced to barely three trips a day while the service from Penang has been stopped.

“No tourists are coming anyway,” Hezri said.

But he is hopeful that business will pick up once the pandemic is over and the MCO is lifted. His target for the year is two million arrivals, underpinned by domestic tourism.

On the bright side, the island has fewer than 10 cases of Covid-19. This, Hezri said, could be a plus point when it relaunches efforts to woo tourists.

Eric R. Sinnaya, a veteran in the tourism industry, expects the island to take 12 to 18 months to recover from the economic fallout caused by the pandemic.