Cheers all around as Penang opens its arms to visitors

Come visit us: Penang eager to see an increase in visitors to the island this coming holiday season with the interstate and inter-district travel ban being lifted.

GEORGE TOWN: Tourism operators cheered as if the fog had suddenly lifted upon hearing that Penang will enter the recovery movement control order tomorrow. The timing could not be better, said Penang Tourist Guides Association vice-president Clement Liang.

“Hotel rooms in Penang are so cheap right now – just a little over RM100 for a four-star hotel room.

“This is the best time to come to Penang as it’s the year-end season. So many people are fed up of staying at home.

“It’s time for people to come back to Penang and enjoy our char koay teow, ” Liang said.

The best piece of news for Malaysian Association of Hotels Penang chairman Raj Kumar is that interstate and inter-district travel is now allowed nationwide, save for pockets of areas under the enhanced MCO.

Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced yesterday that National Security Council (NSC) made the decision.

He added that police permission to cross state and district borders is no longer necessary, and there will be no more interstate or inter-district roadblocks as of tomorrow.

Instead, the police are instructed to focus on compliance with standard operating procedures (SOP), Ismail Sabri said.

Raj said hotels are now “excitedly waiting” for new SOPs, especially for functions and events.

“We are waiting for the SOP on year-end corporate dinners, weddings and Christmas dinners. Will they be limited to 250 people in a function hall or will it depend on the venue’s capacity?

“We need this SOP so that we can plan accordingly. There are only a few precious weeks left in the year for hotels to recoup their losses.

“Many of our clients hope to be able hold their traditional year-end functions, and many couples like to hold their weddings at the end of the year, ” said Raj, adding that it was hard to predict how the domestic market would react.

He hoped the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry would work hard to encourage domestic tourism.

“Domestic tourism is our core business now, ” Raj added.

Escape theme park chief executive officer Sim Choo Kheng said he was glad to be allowed to reopen.

During this latest round of the conditional MCO, theme parks such as Escape were not allowed to open.

“Even though interstate travel is now allowed, we must still be mindful of the SOP and avoid fear-mongering and fake news.

“Penang’s tourism industry may not be out of the woods yet, and we need a detailed tourism blueprint tailored to the new normal, ” Sim said.

Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow thanked NSC for accepting the appeal by the state special committee on security to only enforce the conditional MCO in specific locations in the state.

Only sub-districts 12 and 13, which include Bayan Lepas, Relau, Batu Maung, Paya Terubong, and Ayer Itam, will remain under the conditional MCO until Dec 20.

Two localities – flats in Paya Terubong and Desa Bistari Apartments in Batu Uban, where many foreign workers live – have been placed under targeted enhanced MCO until Dec 20.

Chow urged all residents in these areas to cooperate with authorities to control the spread of Covid-19.

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