LANGKAWI: After being closed for a long time due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the resort island of Langkawi welcomed its first influx of holiday-makers via the tourism bubble, which began today.

Some 3,200 tourists are expected to arrive here via three ferry trips from Kuala Perlis, Perlis and via 18 flights from Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport in Subang, Selangor and Penang International Airport.

A Boeing 737-800 flight MH1432 departing from KLIA with 159 passengers became the first plane to land at Langkawi International Airport (LIA) at 10.45 am yesterday.

Their arrival was met by Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri and Kedah Menteri Besar Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor, alongside representatives of various agencies who made the travel bubble a success.

A private sector employee, Rosmazaini Mohd Zain, 50, who arrived with her husband and four children on the flight, expressed great joy to have finally ended their dreary lockdown in the capital city.

"I had made reservations since January for Langkawi, but soon after, several spells of lockdown forced us to postpone our holiday time and again until the government announced this travel bubble to Langkawi," she said.

"Though I made early bookings, I never cancelled and the hotel allowed us to choose a date within the year and finally I chose Sept 16 and, thanks to the timely school break, here we are in Langkawi today," she said when met by reporters at the LIA today.

Elaborating on her trip, Rosmazaini said she and her family had to undergo the COVID-19 swab test at KLIA, which she said was a smooth process despite the Health Ministry only announcing it yesterday.

While excited to be in Langkawi, she can't help feeling a little worried about holidaying during the COVID-19 pandemic, adding that they would abide by the SOP to curtail any risk of infection.

A tourist from Sweden, Katarina Carlfalk, 43, said her trip went like clockwork despite the travel protocol, including the COVID-19 test before boarding the flight at KLIA.

"It is an amazing feeling to be here, this is the first time since December I'm leaving Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia has so many nice places to be explored and I cannot wait to go to the beach here in Langkawi after (being) so long in Kuala Lumpur," said the Swede, who is working in Kuala Lumpur.

Meanwhile, Nancy said her ministry is excited at the prospect of tourist arrivals in Langkawi today under the travel bubble concept, which will be used as a yardstick to reopen other tourist destinations in the near future.

"Langkawi is an ideal destination for us to introduce the travel bubble because it has everything to cater for the tourists. Hence, we are using Langkawi as a yardstick to reopen other destinations later.

"We have just witnessed the first arrival, with smiles all around... I thank all the parties at large, especially the frontliners and the Langkawi Development Authority whose great efforts have made this travel bubble project a reality," she said.

Muhammad Sanusi, meanwhile, said that as many as 2,200 tourists are in-bound for Langkawi today via 18 flights, while some 1,000 will be arriving on three ferry trips from Kuala Perlis, Perlis.

"We hope this pioneer travel programme will achieve its objective, which we believe will revive the tourism sector in Langkawi and restore the island's economy," he said.