Message From Borneo Adventure’s Founders On Covid-19

Written by Philip Yong and Robert Basiuk. Last updated .

We hope you are well during these difficult times. We would like to provide you with an update on the situation in Malaysia.

As with many countries around the world, the Malaysian Government has taken steps to stop the spread of Covid-19. The Government has imposed a Movement Control Order (MCO) from 18 March 2020 until 12 May 2020.

The measures put in place have essentially closed the country’s borders and restricted movement within the country. This includes closing all non-essential businesses and services and requiring people to stay at home. The government may extend the MCO.

In line with government guidelines, our offices in Kuching and Kota Kinabalu are temporarily closed. Our team is working from home replying to emails and inquiries. If you have booked a tour with us for 2020 and have any questions please email us for updates.

As you are aware, airlines have cut back on flights all over the world including to Malaysian Borneo. Domestic flights are limited as Air Asia has grounded its fleet. Malaysian Airlines is currently still operating and providing a valuable air bridge to Sarawak and Sabah.

With all these developments, it realistically won’t be possible to run tours for the next few months. There are limited flights, public places and tourism attractions are closed and people rightly have other priorities.

When things will normalise is difficult to say and we understand that this is not the ideal time for traveling. Many people are affected and are facing difficulties.

Borneo Adventure is confident that we’ll get through these challenging times. We have been in business for over 30 years and this is not the first challenge we, or the travel industry have faced.

Like others around the world, Borneo Adventure and our team are hunkering down, staying safe and looking forward to the end of this crisis.

We wish to reassure you that we will get through this present crisis and we will be ready to resume our normal business arrangements as soon as the situation has normalised.

Our thoughts are with everyone impacted by Covid-19, wherever you are in the world.

Stay safe. Stay in touch. And for now, stay at home.

 

Update – 20 May 2020

We are now into our 10th week since the Government of Malaysia implemented a Movement Control Order to stem the spread of the Coronavirus. This order included closing the borders to foreign arrivals and limiting movement with the country between states and districts. These stay at home measures, while definitely tough on business, have had the desired effect of slowing the spread of the disease and enabling our medical facilities the time to cope with cases that did turn up. Thankfully, the total case count in Malaysia has been relatively low (as of today, below 7,000) and the current trend is that fewer new cases are occurring.

In response to the improving situation, and recognizing that businesses need to restart, the government has recently allowed a gradual reopening under a Conditional Movement Control Order. This modification to the order has allowed essential businesses and food outlets to reopen, but only while observing protocols of hygiene, social distancing and limited numbers of people at any one time. We can now go out and exercise, but all group activities including sports (and tours) are still not allowed.

Borneo Adventure’s offices are open and we are continuing to deal with administration and keeping in touch with our valuable customers, agents and suppliers. However, under the present situation we are not allowed to do any tourism activities. A positive sign is that Sabah has now opened its national parks and wildlife sanctuaries to limited visitation. For the time being parks and attractions in Sarawak remain closed to visitors.

Whilst domestic tourism is now allowed in Sabah (with social distancing), under the current guidance, foreign tourists are still banned from entering Malaysia until 9 June. The Malaysian government is continually reviewing the situation but has not yet indicated when foreign tourists will be allowed into the country.

Given the apparent success of the containment measures taken, we remain cautiously optimistic that we might be able to see a resumption of tourism by the fourth quarter of this year, or perhaps earlier. This of course will depend on many factors at the local, regional and global scale, which are beyond our control.

That these are challenging times is certainly an understatement. However, we are committed to weathering this storm as we have weathered other storms in our 30+ year history. There will no doubt be changes, but we are looking forward to working with all our industry partners to emerge stronger and to continue providing exciting and innovative programmes that feature the best of Borneo.

We hope this finds you well and ready to take on the challenges.

Stay Safe.

 

Update – 1 July 2020

Some positive signs; as of 30th June the overall Covid-19 case count for Malaysia remains relatively low (below 8,650 cases). Whilst Malaysia continues its strategy of suppression and is keeping cases at a very low level, we are beginning to see a return to some level of normality with sectors of the economy opening up.

The current Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO) will be in place until 31 August 2020. This mandates social distancing, limiting numbers in gatherings and other measures, but shops and businesses are open. The government is taking a phased approach to reopening with each sector only allowed to open provided it follows the government-issued Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). Some sectors (e.g. clubs and pubs) remain closed for the time being.

The good news for the tourism sector is that interstate domestic tourism is now allowed and the government has issued a series of SOPs for hotels, tour operators, homestays, tourism attractions, etc. For the time being however, borders remain closed to foreign tourists from outside the country and no date for reopening to international tourists has been announced.

The government has also recently announced Covid-19 testing charges for people returning to Malaysia. At present, the new charges are only for Malaysians and expatriates returning to Malaysia. We are hopeful that this is perhaps a first step towards following the Iceland model of testing tourists upon arrival when borders open. The fees for foreigners are RM 60-250 depending on the type of test (antibody rapid test, antigen rapid test or polymerase chain reaction)

There have been some early discussions on the possibility of travel bubbles but no firm agreements as yet. Countries in ASEAN that have shown success in containing the virus (e.g. Singapore, Brunei, Vietnam, etc.) will likely be the first (countries) to be part of any ‘green lane’ covid-19 travel arrangements.

On the ground, tourism attractions in both Sarawak and Sabah are reopening. For example, all national parks in Sarawak are open with capacity limits in place to avoid crowding on the trails. Most 4 and 5 Star hotels have reopened, although some properties remain closed with plans to reopen when the RMCO is over. Many budget hotels remain temporarily closed and some have closed for good.

For our part, Borneo Adventure has implemented a series of new measures to further ensure the health and safety of our guests and our staff during tours. We are following the Malaysian federal government SOPs, any State government guidelines, and also international initiatives such as WTTC’s Safe Travel global protocols. We have also put in place new protocols for our lodges and jungle camps at Batang Ai. Our guides, drivers and other frontline staff have undergone training on our new SOPs.

Borneo Adventure is ready to operate and host international visitors again and we are looking forward to when the borders re-open. We have started to receive enquiries again and have taken a few bookings. Small but welcome signs. We look forward to welcoming clients to the wonders of Borneo soon.

 


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