WITH the pandemic hugely affecting travel and tourism, stakeholders must evolve to meet current and future needs, according to Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow.
He said this was especially vital for Penang as the tourism sector makes up 49% of the state’s gross domestic product. Chow was speaking at the launch of the Penang Tourism Master Plan (PGTMP) 2021-2030 which was intended to steer the sector’s recovery and growth in a systematic and sustainable manner.
“The World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) estimates that Asia-Pacific countries saw an average of 84% drop in tourist arrivals as a result of the current health situation.
“Malaysia itself reported an 83.4% decline in international arrivals in 2020.
“As such, the PGTMP is timely, ” he said at the launch at The Wembley – A St Giles Hotel Penang.
Chow called on all local tourism players to embrace the programmes, projects and initiatives outlined in the plan, and hoped other economic sectors would come up with similar blueprints.
“We have to accept that the world has changed.
“We don’t know when things will go back to normal, if ever, and what the tourism industry will be like then.
“Having such a plan in place will allow us to bounce back when the health situation improves.
“Let’s work together to make Penang a shining example for the nation.
“A state which offers great hospitality and value for money will be a magnet for local and foreign travellers alike, ” he added.
The PGTMP was initiated by state tourism and creative economy committee chairman Yeoh Soon Hin in 2019.
It was supposed to be introduced last year but was delayed due to the pandemic.
Yeoh said the steering committee that formulated the plan – which included main consultants YZD Planning and Consult as well as those from Universiti Sains Malaysia and AIMST University – took a holistic ‘top down’ and ‘bottom up’ approach to address challenges faced by stakeholders.
“The process involved dialogues, focus group discussions, interviews and town hall sessions.
“It was important for us to get the views of everyone to create a sense of ownership.
“The plan was designed to be in sync with the Penang2030 vision and focused on our unique selling propositions (USPs) with four main thrusts and 11 sub-thrusts, consisting of 84 initiatives and 13 signature projects.
“The plan also intends to widen the positive impact of tourism beyond George Town to benefit other areas in the state such as Balik Pulau and mainland Penang.
“All these will drive the growth of tourism in Penang in years to come as we recover from the effects of the pandemic, ” Yeoh told attendees.
The four main thrusts contained in the plan are (A) Diversification of tourism products, (B) Positioning Penang as a premier destination, (C) Ensuring sustainable and responsible tourism and (D) Becoming a smart tourism destination.
Under that are sub-thrusts to (A1) Promote alternative tourism, (A2) Value-add existing products, (A3) Innovate products, (B1) Strengthen international linkages, (B2) Branding, marketing and promoting Penang and (B3) High-yield tourism.
Completing it are (C1) Enhancement of the creative economy ecosystem, (C2) Nature-based tourism, (C3) Authenticity in heritage, arts and culture, (D1) Adoption of new technologies in Tourism 4.0 and (D2) Integrated destination management.
The plan also identifies key tourism corridors to capitalise on as well as potential high-growth and long-haul markets that can be tapped.
It also outlines a need to sustain traditional and existing markets.
Malaysia Association of Hotels Penang Chapter chairman K. Raj Kumar said it was good to have solid strategies in place so the state’s tourism sector can recapture the glory years.
“We need to bounce back and hit the ground running once the pandemic is over.
“These new ideas and solutions will be invaluable on our journey of recovery, ” he added.
Following the launch, attendees adjourned for a ‘buka puasa’ session prepared by the hotel.
The PGTMP can be viewed in detail at https://petace.gov.my/pgtmp/.