GEORGE TOWN: Penang remains among the top destinations for domestic travel this holiday season, as many people are still put off by the hassle of overseas travel amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Major roads leading to the heritage enclave, beaches in Batu Ferringhi and tourist hotspots here have been chockful of vehicles bearing not only local but also outstation number plates.
Going by hotel occupancy rates alone, Malaysian Association of Hotels Penang chairman K. Raj Kumar said room bookings remain high ever since interstate travel was allowed on Oct 11.
He said the percentage for beach hotels stood at 70%, city hotels at 60% and mainland hotels at 75%.
The main reason hotels could not open all their rooms was just the lack of manpower.
“We are now more organised. We got more casual and part-time staff to help temporarily, but the cost is very high. We have to double the hourly wage.
“Hopefully, the government will allow us to bring in foreign workers as soon as possible,” he added.
Association of Tourism Attractions Penang chairman Ch’ng Huck Theng said Penang is a prime getaway destination because many people were forced to use their annual leave days before the year’s end, hence the crowds in popular eateries and tourist attractions here.
“By convention, most people would have travelled overseas for their year-end holidays by now.
“But it’s difficult and troublesome to fly out of the country now, as you’ll need to go through Covid-19 tests, visa applications and mandatory home quarantine upon return.
“Domestic travel is the next best choice and obviously, Penang is the perfect place to be that, heading towards the holiday season. We have beaches, heritage and tourist attractions for you to take a breather and spend quality time with your family and friends,” he added.
Ch’ng said it is now a good time for ‘Cuti-cuti Malaysia’ and getting to know more about the places of interest, and tangible and intangible heritage in the country.
“Once you do that, you’ll get to know that the products and services provided by local tourism players are on par with international standards.
“The grass is not always greener on the other side. Local tourism operators can do a good job as well,” said Ch’ng, adding that the Penang government has been stepping up its promotional efforts in bringing tourism ringgit to the state.
While large numbers of domestic tourists could be a boon for the local economy, Ch’ng said the public, be it tourism operators or tourists themselves, must be cautious as the Covid-19 virus is still prevalent.