Tourist spots struggling to hold up


Visitors taking part in a guided tour before the pandemic at Tropical Spice Garden in Teluk Bahang, Penang. — Filepic

PENANG’S tourism players are hoping that the state can move into Phase 3 of the National Recovery Plan (NRP) as soon as possible so that their members can kickstart their recovery process.

Association of Tourism Attractions Penang chairman Ch’ng Huck Theng said among their 50-odd members, around 70% have either closed permanently or ceased operations temporarily.

“From big attractions to smaller ones, all are suffering.

“With neither any foreign nor domestic visitors through the gate, revenue is virtually zero.

“Yet, most still have to retain a handful of staff for general upkeep of facilities, or need to service loans or pay rental for idle premises,” he said.

Visitors enjoying the view from Curtis Crest, a signature attraction at The Habitat Penang Hill before the pandemic.Visitors enjoying the view from Curtis Crest, a signature attraction at The Habitat Penang Hill before the pandemic.

Ch’ng said some, like Entopia and Tropical Spice Garden, have introduced novel community adoption programmes to generate funds.

“While we’re grateful for the various aids the government had allocated so far, it’s barely enough.

“It is not just about saving the tourist attraction, but also the livelihoods of all its employees.

Ch’ng: With neither any foreign nor domestic visitors through the gate, revenue is virtually zero.Ch’ng: With neither any foreign nor domestic visitors through the gate, revenue is virtually zero.

“If these entities go under, hundreds or even thousands of families will be affected. This could lead to other social issues like depression or increased crime.

“It is a long road to recovery, so we have to take the first steps sooner rather than later.

“This would bring some hope and show there’s light at the end of the tunnel.”

A staff member feeding birds inside a large aviary at Penang Bird Park in Seberang Jaya.A staff member feeding birds inside a large aviary at Penang Bird Park in Seberang Jaya.

With vaccination continuing at a rapid pace and some 60% of Penang adult’s population projected to complete their second doses in the coming weeks, Ch’ng said the island was fast approaching the threshold to move into phase 3 of the NRP.

“So, there needs to be a concrete plan to allow both the state and country’s economic sectors to resume, so people can continue earning a living.”

With the tourism industry being the second biggest contributor to Penang’s economy after manufacturing, Ch’ng also believed it is vital that the sector does not collapse beyond a point of no return.

Entopia by Penang Butterfly Farm zoology operation senior officer Melissa Yung attending to an adult iguana at the farm.Entopia by Penang Butterfly Farm zoology operation senior officer Melissa Yung attending to an adult iguana at the farm.

“Tourism was integral to Penang before the pandemic, and it will play an equally important role moving forward.

“We are one of the best destinations in the world because of our attractions.

“Keeping our industry alive will maintain the state’s appeal to future visitors,” he said, urging the government, public and tourism stakeholders alike to work together towards a practical solution.

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