Not ready to reopen for business

The Sungai Nibong express bus terminal looking rather quiet. — ZHAFARAN NASIB/The Star

ALTHOUGH an influx of tourists to Penang following the government’s decision to lift the interstate travel ban will give a much-needed boost to tourism attractions in the state, businesses at bus terminals are not seeing light at the end of the tunnel.

In Butterworth on the mainland, a check at Penang Sentral found only four outlets operating on its third floor, while over a dozen more, including eateries and convenience stores, were closed.

Notices pasted on their shutters declared that some of them have terminated their tenancy and would close permanently.

There were hardly any travellers at the terminal despite it being a major hub linking ferry, bus and train services nearby.

A fast food restaurant manager, who wished to be known only as Kheng, said his business has suffered badly since the movement control order last year.

“I might follow suit to cease operations once my tenancy expires in the middle of next year.

Ganesan putting up a notice on the ticket fare discounts at his booth in Komtar.Ganesan putting up a notice on the ticket fare discounts at his booth in Komtar.

“I’m among the last few operators who came in, and those who ended their contract have left their businesses.

“The rental here is RM8,000 monthly and renewed on a three-year term. On top of that, we need to pay salaries, commissions and franchise fees.

“To survive, we need local customers who would come every day, and not travellers who only arrive during holidays.

“I hope the management will further promote our availability and take initiatives, such as offering discounts on parking rates to attract locals,” he said.

Another restaurant operator Iqbal Hafiedz, 41, said despite a slow start, he was hoping to recuperate from losses suffered during the lockdown.

“Although we are not able to operate at full capacity for 24 hours with 25 staff members, we are now operating from morning to night with nine staff members.

“I hope travellers who use the terminal will stop by for local meals and support us,” he said, adding that he reopened his business on Wednesday.

Over in Komtar, George Town, GJG Express managing director S. Ganesan said his company was offering discounts on tickets to any destination to attract passengers.

Only one counter is open at the Sungai Nibong bus terminal to serve as a centralised system for ticket purchases.Only one counter is open at the Sungai Nibong bus terminal to serve as a centralised system for ticket purchases.

“Tickets to Kuala Lumpur, which used to be priced at RM48, are now going for RM38 as we increase the number of trips by 50% more.“I’m hoping this move would not only draw more passengers but also establish confidence in our services once again.

“All 20 drivers under my company are fully vaccinated and we sanitise the buses after each trip.”

He said despite tourist destinations slowly seeing more crowds, his company recorded very little increase in passengers.

“Most locals prefer to travel in their own vehicles and fewer seem to be travelling by public transport.

“Maybe when colleges and universities reopen, more students will use express buses,” he said.

To help kickstart the industry, Ganesan hoped that the government would provide some form of subsidy to encourage drivers.

At the Sungai Nibong bus terminal, it was also quiet with no crowd rushing to buy tickets.

Only a counter was open to serve as a centralised system for all ticket purchases at the terminal.

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interstate travel , Penang Sentral , ferry , bus , train


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