DestinationsThe state is the country’s first to set up a task force dedicated to mitigating the socio-economic impact of Covid-19

Penang puts up concerted efforts to revive tourism

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When international flights are allowed again, the first key target markets include Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia. Credit: galitskaya/Getty
When international flights are allowed again, the first key target markets include Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia. Credit: galitskaya/Getty

As Malaysia’s first state to boost a task force dedicated to mitigate the socio-economic impacts of Covid-19, Penang is putting recovery of the tourism industry at the forefront as it emerges from the pandemic lockdown.

The Penang Tourism Economy Recovery Advisory Board (PETERAB), together with the Tourism Penang Next Normal Taskforce, will work in complimentary roles to “ensure that Penang takes the lead in state tourism economy recovery efforts,” said Hon. Yeoh Soon Hin, Penang State EXCO for Tourism Development, Arts, Culture and Heritage (PETACH).

PETERAB will propose economic considerations and financial recommendations to restore Penang’s tourism powerhouse status, while Tourism Penang Next Normal Taskforce will enforce safety and security measures for tourists and employees.

Both teams are headed by a cross section of Penang's industry veterans and entrepreneurs, including Y.Bhg. Datuk Hamzah bin Rahmat, Y.Bhg Dato’ Seri R. Arunasalam a/I.V Ramasamy, Y.Bhg Dato’ Syed Mohamad Aidid bin Syed Murtaza, Y.Bhg Dato’ Danny Goon, as well as Professor Dr. Lean Hooi Hooi.

Travel Weekly Asia understands that since February when the effects of the pandemic started to unravel, PETACH has been engaging travel agents and seeking feedback from them to integrate into the state’s Tourism Recovery Action Plan.

Focusing on immediate, short and long term plans for state recovery, local agents have routinely been engaged at roundtable sessions to be kept abreast on industry developments, as well as introducing special incentives for domestic travellers.

At the national level, Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents as well as Malaysian Chinese Tourism Association – part of the Tourism Penang Next Normal Taskforce – have also been roped in to assist in the industry transition to align safety and security measures.

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Penang has set up a task force dedicated to mitigating the socio-economic impact of Covid-19. Credit: Hon. Yeoh Soon Hin

Target markets: Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia

Penang has done well to control the pandemic, with the state government implementing the Gradual Recovery Strategy and achieving green zone status as of 17 June.

Speaking to Travel Weekly Asia, Hon. Yeoh said that the current plan is to focus on domestic tourism in the short term by wooing travellers from neighbouring states.

Believing that it could be a “feasible gradual approach to lift the ban on international travelling by allowing international travelling between green zone countries,” PETERAB has also written to the Ministry of Tourism to propose the Federal Government to explore this idea, said Hon. Yeoh.

“This could be a viable solution to begin with, rather than opening all our borders at once and risking transmission again- which will bring us back to square one and brought to waste the efforts to contain the virus which took us months long.”

“Opening the borders – even if they’re travel bubbles – should be top priority of the ASEAN governments…its population is over 600 million and will be a great generator for domestic ASEAN tourism to restart tourism,” added Datuk Hamzah.

"International arrivals are only expected to trickle in the last quarter of the year if the travel bubbles initiated materialise,” he added.

When international flights are allowed again, the first key target markets include Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia since “visitors from these countries contribute significantly to Penang and Malaysia annually…[with] Indonesians making the bulk of medical tourism visitors,” said Hon. Yeoh.

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