Pangkor tourism players hopeful despite pandemic setback

The Pangkor jetty is the main point of arrival for tourists to the island. —Filepic

PANGKOR island’s duty-free status, which came into effect on Jan 1, was supposed to be a game changer for the tourism industry there.

The Covid-19 pandemic and movement control order (MCO) from March 18, however, had thrown a spanner in the works, effectively crippling the entire industry on the island and also Malaysia.

Pangkor Hotels and Resorts Association chairman Munir Shaari said tourism industry players on the island remained hopeful that Perak government would continue to develop and promote the island post-MCO.

“Since the tourism industry is an ecosystem here, all taxi drivers, watersports operators, souvenir shops, hawkers and restaurants have been severely affected economically.

“Even for hoteliers and resorts, January and February were good months until the MCO was announced. We had to inform our guests to shorten their stay, while bookings were cancelled and refunded, ” he said, adding that there were about 40 hotels and resorts on the island.

“The circumstances and timing of the pandemic was really unfortunate as we were all geared up to welcome more tourists with the duty-free status.

“We really hope that the state government will remain focused on developing Pangkor into a world-class destination and that tourists will once again flock to the island one day, ” he added.

Munir said discussions had been held with the state government to revitalise the tourism industry.

“We’ve had a meeting with state tourism committee chairman Datuk Nolee Ashilin Mohd Radzi and other industry players.

“We agreed that it is vital to give confidence to potential customers in this new environment.

“While guests must have confidence to stay at hotels or resorts, our staff too need confidence to work at these premises, ” he added.

Munir said most hoteliers and resort owners were formulating plans to train their staff based on recommendations by the government to prepare them for the new working environment that they would be dealing with.

Among the measures include temperature scans on staff, guests and even vendors, which would be logged to allow easy tracing for Health Ministry if needed.

“Kitchen staff will be provided with plastic gloves when preparing meals while public areas will be cleaned at least twice a day.

“We also plan to give a list of ‘do’s and don’ts’ to guests during check-in and remind them to maintain social distancing, ” he said, adding that there were plans to provide face masks for everyone and have sanitisers in strategic locations around the premises.

Munir also urged the government to consider giving subsidies on utility bills, quit rent and assessment tax for hotel industry players.

“It will be really helpful since we are not getting any revenue for now, ” he said, adding that the industry was expected to take one or two years to recover from the pandemic.

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