Malaysia’s National Recovery Council proposed reopening borders to foreign travelers by Jan. 1.
The country plans to ease into reopening its international tourism sector. Starting Monday, it will allow fully-vaccinated tourists from select countries to visit the northern resort island of Langkawi without quarantine. While the island began accepting domestic tourists in September, next week will be the first time foreign travelers are welcomed back since March 2020.
Currently, foreign nationals from the U.S. and other countries need written approval from the Malaysian government or a specific long-term travel pass to enter the country, according to the U.S. Embassy.
Malaysia, a Southeast Asian known for its beaches and jungles, has seen its economy take a hit from the lack of visitors during the pandemic. The travel and tourism sector accounted for nearly 12% of its GDP and 15% of jobs in 2019, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council.
Malaysia’s National Recovery Council chairman and former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin said in a Thursday Facebook post that reopening domestic travel on Langkawi has had a positive impact on the national tourism industry, and continuing to ease travel restrictions should be another boon.
He did not share a firm reopening date.
► Langkawi island:Malaysian resort island to welcome back vaccinated tourists from select countries Nov. 15
COVID-19 cases in the nation have been dropping steadily since mid-August, according to data from the World Health Organization. Malaysia reported 35,303 cases the week of Nov. 1, compared to more than 150,000 the week of Aug. 23.
Even so, the Centers for Disease Control still considers Malaysia to have “very high” levels of COVID-19. The agency suggests U.S. travelers avoid visiting the country, or make sure they are fully vaccinated before entering.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Bailey Schulz on Twitter: @bailey_schulz.