WITH the ongoing ban on interstate travel, tourism players can only hope for a smooth and speedy vaccination process to help contain the Covid-19 pandemic.
They are praying for the ban to be lifted sooner to salvage the dwindling industry.
Clothing shop executive manager Kabir Jalil, 57, said tourism operators in Batu Ferringhi, Penang, have had few to zero customers for almost a year.
“We are hoping that the National Vaccination Programme can move quickly to help end the pandemic.
“With Penang still under the conditional movement control order, interstate travel is not going to be lifted and we will be affected.
“So, we really hope everyone can quickly register for the vaccine and help attain the desired herd immunity for the tourism industry to bounce back, ” he said.
Kabir, who has been in business for 20 years, said this was one of his worst-hit experiences.
“In Batu Ferringhi, we heavily rely on international and out-of-state tourists.
“These visitors would usually shop and spend money on hotel stays, food and souvenirs.
“Penangites will usually come for the beaches, do a short day trip or book a hotel room and stay in the whole day.
“They do not spend as much as the out-of-state tourists.
“So, we really need interstate travel to make our tourism industry sustainable, ” he added.
A check by StarMetro showed rows of shops in the popular tourist belt closed with only a handful still open.
A shop assistant, who wished to be known only as Jenny, 53, said fewer customers patronised her place on the weekends.
“We see mostly locals with their families who sometimes put up at the nearby hotels for weekend getaways. Otherwise, this area is very quiet.
“Several shopowners here have worked out arrangements with their neighbouring shops to help keep a lookout for each other.
“Due to the drastic drop in visitors, we have been tending to each other’s shops for sometime now.
“For me, I help look after two of my neighbouring shops, the souvenir shop on my right and clothing shop on my left,” she said.
“Quite a number of shops have also ceased operations.
“A few budget hotels have closed down too, ” she said.
A check at Penang Hill found fewer visitors than usual at the lower station, with long queues missing.
Many surrounding shops were closed with only some in operation.
Drinks stall helper Md Miraz, 24, said their customers were mostly Penang Hill Corporation staff members and workers from within the area.
“Many shops are not open and some chose to remain closed due to the low number of visitors.
“As interstate travel is not allowed, we do not see many people coming here.
“The only business we get are from locals who buy mineral water when they go hiking or workers in the area who stop by for a drink, ” he said.