WHY are the other cities ranked above Penang when the state has tastier hawker food to offer?
AirAsia Berhad northern region government relations officer manager Kenneth Tan opined that this could be due to poor hygiene standards at some of the eateries in the state.
“The best street food ranking is judged based on several criteria which may not be fulfilled by some eateries in the state.
“Besides the taste of the food, the eateries are usually judged on hygiene, the persons preparing the food (if they are locals or foreigners), quality of ingredients, environment where the food is served and disposal of food waste, among others.
“Shockingly, locals who patronise some of the popular eateries and hawker centres in Penang often find themselves eating next to rollicking rodents and dirty monsoon drains that can pose a danger to their health.
“This is not a secret, as we always see it in the news of eateries being closed down by the health authorities due to the bad hygiene practices.
“This problem needs to be remedied immediately, ” he said at the Penang Tourism Master Plan (PTMP) town hall session at Setia SPICE Convention Centre in Bayan Lepas recently.
Tan, who is also a director at Penang Global Tourism, was among those from the tourism sector, including government officials, industry players, tourism associations, community leaders, NGOs, academicians and the public who attended the session.
CEOWorld magazine had ranked Singapore as the world’s best city for street food among 50 other cities from around the world for street food-focused travellers in 2019.
Penang did not even make it to the Top 20 list.
Tan noted that although PTMP is a farsighted plan, industry players, on their part, must look into keeping their eateries clean.
“We cannot be complacent and need to step up our game.
“We cannot carry on with the status quo. We must think of ways to market Penang as a food heaven and promote our delicious street food, ” he said.
Entopia chief executive officer Joseph Goh was happy that the issues raised during the discussion sessions were addressed in PTMP.
“We want to capture a high yield of customers and improve tourism infrastructure. PTMP has done a great job in covering the issues that we raised.
“My only concern is execution and management of the plan. As an operator, I understand how difficult it is to run tourism products and experiences.
“There are many projects in the list in which some I believe can be achieved but we would like to know how such projects will be executed and who will be managing them once launched.
“As we all know the results of such multiple plans are not immediate, it can only yield results in years. So, the role and efficiency of the managing authorities will be crucial in deciding if these plans will ever succeed and achieve our goals, ” he said.
State tourism development, arts, culture and heritage committee chairman Yeoh Soon Hin said in line with the suggestion by the state government, the consultant took a holistic, bottom-up and top-down approach to make sure that everyone’s views were taken into consideration through four series of focus group discussions, a forum and a town hall session.
“The plan will be a reference document for us as the key stakeholders in the state’s tourism industry.
“The master plan will not only stimulate the growth of a more organised tourism sector, it is also an interesting document to attract domestic and foreign investors into the state and benefit Penang as a whole.
“At a glance, the plan will expand physical and non-physical development to areas outside of George Town and Batu Ferringhi and include both the mainland and island especially Seberang Prai which has a lot of attractions to offer, ” he said.
Yeoh said even though the Covid-19 outbreak might have affected the tourism industry, he is confident that the virus will eventually be contained.
“The state’s Tourism, Art and Culture Ministry (Motac) department will be having a meeting to study on the effects of Covid-19 on the tourism industry soon and I will be holding a team meeting on the issue, ” he said.
Yeoh added that stakeholders are welcome to give comments and suggestions on the PTMP within the next two weeks.
“I believe we are the first state in Malaysia to come out with our own tourism master plan.
“We will be carrying out workshops to realise, manage and monitor the implementation works, ” he said.
Meanwhile, YZD Planning and Consult chief consultant Prof Dr Badaruddin Mohamed, in his presentation, explained the four thrusts of the future Penang tourism growth, namely diversification of tourism products, positioning Penang as a premier destination, ensuring sustainable tourism and building a smart tourism city.
“After determining the issues and challenges, we will come out with strategies, sub-thrusts, thrusts and initiatives before starting our signature projects.
“There are a total of 104 initiatives for physical projects and programmes in the PTMP from 2020 to 2030.
“We want to make Penang a premier destination, a world-class and exclusive tourism destination with luxurious and high-quality standards in terms of accessibility, amenities, tourist accommodations, activities and experiences.
“Our vision is to mark Penang as a premier, sustainable, diversified and smart tourism destination, ” he said.
Penanti assemblyman Dr Norlela Ariffin, who was also present, welcomed the Kampung Terus-Air Itam Dalam Wetland signature project as it would fully engage and involve the local community so that they can benefit from it.
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