Gloomy May for travel sector

Tourists flocking to Chew Jetty in Penang last May but this year, the crowds have disappeared due to the virus. — Filepic

EXPECTATION did not meet reality for the tourism and hospitality industry in Penang which has ground to a halt due to the coronavirus.

Before the threat surfaced, industry players were predicting a merry May due to the long stretches of holidays.

The public will be celebrating Labour Day on May 1, Wesak Day on May 7, Nuzul Al-Quran on May 11 and Hari Raya Aidilfitri most likely on May 25, depending on the sighting of the moon.

Penang Tourist Guides Association president Chin Poh Chin, who initially predicted a tourism bonanza in May, said she could only pray and hope that the virus disappears into thin air and never comes back again.

“After the pandemic is under control, it will still take travellers four to five months more to regain confidence in visiting other countries.

“Building back the economy and job stability will be the main priority of any country as almost all industries are affected.

“We hope the MCO can be lifted soon so that tourists can return to Penang.

“The tourism industry may take a while to recuperate but in the meantime, we can work to ensure we are ready to welcome visitors when the time comes, ” she said.

Malaysian Association of Hotels Penang chapter chairman Khoo Boo Lim said the pandemic had affected many industries but none worse than the tourism industry.

“As this year is Visit Malaysia Year 2020, we initially expected business to be good, especially in May due to the combination of good promotions and long weekends.

“However, everything has come to standstill under the travel bans imposed by different countries.

“Even if this pandemic comes under control, we may not see people travelling so soon in the near future.

“The hotels may take a while to recover and we are not optimistic that this will happen this year.

“The fear of coming into contact with people and risking being infected with the virus may still linger in the minds of travellers.

“However, I do hope that domestic tourism will receive some kind of boost to get the industry going by the last quarter of 2020, ” he said.

Lexis Suites Penang assistant communication manager Jason Chee said the management was initially looking forward to high occupancy in May due to the long weekends and additional direct flights to Penang.

“Sadly, the MCO has badly affected the tourism and hospitality industry.

“As the days go by, more and more workers are ‘required’ to go on unpaid leave and deal with pay cuts.

‘Many will be laid off if the situation does not improve in the coming months.

“With the Visit Malaysia 2020 campaign called off, the snowball effect of all this is going to linger for months or even a couple of years.

“We have to ensure we sail through these tough times together and find the middle ground for all parties involved to move forward.

“We are thankful that the Federal Government and the state are doing their best to ensure some kind of assistance is provided to everyone, ” he said.

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