Food remains Penang’s star attraction

Foodies’ heaven: Customers braving the heat to line up for their favourite Nasi Kandar over the weekend in Kapitan Keling, George Town. — K.T. GOH/The Star

GEORGE TOWN: Food, beaches and nature remain the top draw for domestic tourists, with strong crowds and long queues seen in such places over the weekend.

At the famous Hameediyah Restaurant in Campbell Street, the queue stretched over six shoplots as many wanted to get their fix of local offerings.

Among them was company manager Abdullah Jamil, 56, who came to the country’s oldest nasi kandar restaurant with his wife and two children who were on college semester break.

“Food is something that is hard to replicate elsewhere and the nasi kandar here is what we would come for whenever we come to Penang.

“I did not expect such a large turnout but since we are already here, we might as well queue up for it as long as there is physical distancing between customers.

“We used to visit Penang for its food several times a year but it has been over a year since we last came here,” said Abdullah, who had to wait for about 45 minutes.

Other prominent nasi kandar outlets in the city also had their fair share of business, with some even employing Rela personnel to help manage the crowds.

Most tables were also occupied at the hawker stalls in Esplanade, while heavy traffic was spotted around the Penang Road Teochew Chendul stall in Lebuh Keng Kwee.

Over at Penang Hill, close to 4,000 visitors took the funicular train ride up to the hilltop on Saturday.

Penang Hill Corporation general manager Datuk Cheok Lay Leng said the daily figure was the highest recorded this year.

He said most of the visitors were from other states, some from as far as Johor.

“The coaches are running at 50% capacity, which means 50 people per coach.

“Visitors have to wait twice as long to reach the hilltop or come down to the foothill and I am grateful that all of them have been patient,” he said.

Cheok said the police did come from time to time to check on the standard operating procedure compliance, adding that visitors had been reminded to wear face masks and to maintain physical distancing at all times.

In Batu Ferringhi, watersports operators were seeing almost a 60% return in beach activities and family outings.

However, there was a sparse crowd within the heritage enclave where many art installations and souvenir shops are located.

Although some shops received brisk business, there was no hustle and bustle of pre-pandemic times.

Penang tourism and creative economy committee chairman Yeoh Soon Hin said many shops were slowly seeing a return of tourists.

“We have allocated RM2mil to help revive Penang’s tourism sector. We’ll continue to champion the concept of ‘responsible tourism’ as we want everyone to play their role properly.

“We foresee the industry will continue to grow once international borders are open.

“Currently, beach resorts are getting a good response from tourists.

“Some resorts are recording over 90% occupancy rate,” Yeoh said after a visit to Armenian Street.

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