BY SIRA HABIBU
PENANG: The state government is determined to continue promoting Penang as the “Pearl of the Orient” to bring back its lustre, Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon said.
He said a lot must be done to enhance the state’s tourism products.
“The state must not lose its 'Pearl of the Orient' image.
“We appreciate critical comments from the media, as long as they give positive and constructive ideas,” he said regarding The Star’s special report on the flagging tourism industry.
Calling on all parties to work together to help polish the “pearl,” Dr Koh said the state was trying its best but a lot more needed to be done to improve the environment and address pollution and traffic congestion.
“Congestion and pollution are quite common in major cities, what more on a small island like Penang,” he said, after opening the sixth international conference on Electronic Materials and Packaging here yesterday.
Noting that tourist arrivals to Penang took a plunge in recent years partly because of the Sept 11, 2001, incident in United States and the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) scare last year, Dr Koh said 60% of the tourists were from Britain, Europe and Australia.
“This posed a setback to our tourism industry because most of the tourists from these regions are long-stay tourists,” he said.
Dr Koh said efforts had been stepped up to woo back European, Australian and Japanese tourists because every long-stay tourist was equivalent to 20 overnight tourists.
He also said efforts were being taken to upgrade the government bungalows on Penang Hill.
“This privatised project hit a snag following the Sept 11 incident and SARS scare,” he said.
Association of Tourism Attractions Penang pro-tem chairman Eddy Low urged the Federal Government to provide more funds to Penang to help enhance the state’s tourism sector.
He said the state government’s RM4.2mil annual allocation for international promotion was “too little.”
“We would help by improving our products and services but the authorities must also help us in licensing matters, getting us clearance for tourism products and offering us incentives,” he said.
Penang Consumer Protection Association president K. Koris said Penangites must change their attitude.
“The rivers are dirty, mosquito breeding grounds are everywhere and the public toilets are filthy,” he said.