Major investors and tour consortiums should take the opportunity to snap up hotels that have or will be closing down and turn them into quarantine centres with comfortable guest rooms, as this prerequisite will become an integral part of travel in future.
This is especially so when a large number of people are heading towards the same destination such as a cruise ship, convention centre or religious site. A good example is Mecca where millions of pilgrims gather annually.
Upon resumption of international travel, it will no longer be business as usual. For example, budget airlines may leave all middle seats empty and premium airlines limiting one passenger per row. But this will be unnecessary if all passengers are without any communicable disease.
Self-service meals may be discontinued in hotels and cruise ships so that diners practise physical distancing and avoid handling tongs and spoons to pick up food at the buffet counter. Popularity of using conveyor belt to transfer food from kitchen to dining counter will increase.
To prevent large scale infection of Covid-19, it is necessary to quarantine all passengers overnight at specially renovated hotels before they board cruise ships and aircrafts, or for participants to enter convention centres.
This is utmost crucial for pilgrims heading to religious sites where millions gather, as a coronavirus outbreak can affect huge number of pilgrims present. A shutdown will also affect millions of other pilgrims yet to arrive.
If quarantined overnight, all passengers can be thoroughly tested and only those cleared of communicable diseases, including Covid-19, may travel. They can be transferred in disinfected buses directly from the hotels to chartered aircrafts without being exposed to other people.
The hotels commissioned for quarantine can also house Muslim pilgrims from other countries such as those from Indonesia and China, which are huge markets for inbound tours to Malaysia and Saudi Arabia.
Kuala Lumpur can be used as a hub for international pilgrims to stop over for some sightseeing and quarantined before heading to Mecca. When such quarantine measures are endorsed by the Saudi authorities, investors and consortiums would be laughing all the way to the bank.
Recently, Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri said the Islamic Tourism Centre (ITC) under her Ministry would continue to implement various initiatives in exploring opportunities in the Islamic tourism market segment.
These initiatives could include halal hotels to quarantine Muslim pilgrims before their departure for Saudi Arabia. They can also cater to cruise passengers before boarding the ship and such protocol would turn cruise ships to be among the safest places on earth.
Major ports in the country could become home ports for cruises when hotels used for quarantine are operating nearby. By then, Malaysia would lead the world in Islamic cruises, just as it had been the world’s leading halal hub over the past decades.