Four Penang tourist spots tapped for test runs

GEORGE TOWN: Despite its many tourist attractions, four potential key spots in Penang have been identified for the island’s reopening.

State tourism and creative economy committee chairman Yeoh Soon Hin said Penang is proposing a test run for the reopening of spacious outdoor tourist attractions in the state before embracing full resumption of travel activities.

He said the test run is aimed at fine tuning and improving the health protocols at tourist attractions, and would be conducted in collaboration with the Association of Tourist Attractions Penang (ATAP) at outdoor attractions that have sizeable spaces.

“They are The Habitat, Tropical Spice Garden, Penang Tropical Fruit Farm and Penang Bird Park,” he said in a statement.

He said the venues had ample space and are in line with health protocols that subsequently allow social distancing and good air ventilation, effectively avoiding overcrowding issues.

“This test run will be conducted with strict adherence to health protocols, which will limit the test run to three days per week and will only be applicable to fully vaccinated visitors who have pre-booked their tickets online prior to the visit.

“Visitors for each attraction will also be capped at 30 persons at any one time. The tourist attraction operators will also have to work closely with the police authorities, who will be monitoring the test runs,” he said.

He said the state government had submitted the proposal to the National Security Council after an online meeting with ATAP.

Meanwhile, hotels in Penang are all set to welcome domestic tourists.

G Hotel communications director Christina Tan said the hotel is eager to receive visitors again.

“We are ready to open. All our standard operating procedures are already in place,” she said.

She added that all G Hotel staff have received their first vaccination dose and are expected to be fully vaccinated by mid-October.

Prestige Hotel general manager Melvin Ooi said the hotel has seen the patronage of a small percentage of guests, who have been fully vaccinated, picking up.

“We hope the cases will reduce as soon as possible,” he said, adding that hotels have a responsibility to ensure that their staff and guests are safe by adhering to the SOPs.

Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) Penang Chapter chairman K. Raj Kumar said the association would look into how Langkawi fares in the pilot project.

“Langkawi will be a benchmark for us. There is an urgent need to reopen Penang as the next tourism destination. Penang can start reopening its doors to local tourists in stages,” he added.

“All hotels in the state are prepared and ready, and are only waiting for all of their staff to complete their vaccination,” he said, adding that there are about 4,800 personnel from the hotel industry with 98 members under MAH in Penang.

Meanwhile, Universiti Sains Malaysia virologist Dr Kumitaa Theva Das said local tourism activities could be revived in Penang by the end of the year provided all SOPs were adhered to.

She said the Langkawi travel bubble would serve as a model for other places that rely on tourism for its economy, including Penang.

“Hotels, airlines and travel agencies can play their role in keeping tourists safe. For example, nature parks tend to have better ventilation and may pose minimum risks.

“Other places such as the beach might be riskier as people would most likely not have their masks on for water-based activities.

“So in instances like that, a clear SOP would need to be outlined to minimise the risk of an outbreak,” she said.

The senior lecturer said fully vaccinated individuals could still be infected so it is important to wear masks and maintain physical distance.

She said the challenge with reopening tourism was that many holidaying parents would include their children, who are at higher risk of contracting the virus in activities, many of whom, she opined, have yet to be vaccinated at this point in time.

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