GEORGE TOWN: Penang is a top draw for foreign tourists who see it is an all-in-one destination.
According to the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry, Penang’s culture and arts scene, nature, beaches and food are pulling in visitors.
Its Penang director Jonathan Freddy P. Bagang said the state was also special for its historical mansions, churches, cemeteries and pre-war shoplots.
“Many activities are centred around historical and cultural events that define life in Penang. It is also a spot for nature lovers and suitable for family vacations, with Penang Hill, The Habitat and Tropical Spice Garden a huge attraction, ” he said.
Jonathan said Penang’s reputation as a food haven with its delightful street food, also gave it the edge.
He said adventure activities like hiking, cycling in Balik Pulau and frolicking in the longest water slide in the world at Escape Theme Park were the other plus points.
Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) Penang chapter chairman Khoo Boo Lim said Penang still maintained its position as one of the country’s top tourism destination.
He said one of the key challenges was the direct flight accessibility to Penang, adding that the maximum passenger capacity at the Penang International Airport was still not good enough.
Khoo said while Penang’s street food topped the list of many foreigners, the state must do more to promote its restaurant and hotel food.
“Penang has an abundance of talents in delivering world class cuisine, ” he added.
Major tourists destinations such as Entopia by Penang Butterfly Farm and Penang Hill have been continuously upgrading their facilities in anticipation of a tourist influx for Visit Malaysia Year 2020 and Experience Penang 2020 next year.
Entopia sales and marketing chief May Ang said Entopia started as a butterfly farm in 1986, but is now a major nature learning destination after RM50mil was spent on it.
“While there is a 10% drop in visitors compared to last year, we have good support from cruise liners which brought in many visitors. We are definitely preparing for more tourists next year, ” she said.
At Penang Hill, visitors from cruise liners were waiting at the station to board the funicular train up the hill.
Among them was Ravendra Kumar, 55, from Rajasthan, India, and his family.
“We are on a cruise from Singapore. We were told that this (Penang Hill) is a place for nature lovers, ” he said.
Russian tourist Julia Kiryukhia, 12, and her grandmother Irene, 67, were also in Penang.
“My grandmother and I hope to enjoy our short trip before we head back, ” said Julia.
Penang Hill Corporation general manager Datuk Cheok Lay Leng said the body had spent RM38mil since 2017 to upgrade the hill.
He said several million ringgit would be spent next year to upgrade the upper station.