DestinationsMalaysian tour agents and hoteliers see the island-state as shining light for the leisure travel recovery in Malaysia.

Penang sees reasons for optimism as domestic tourism picks up

Travel chiefs Hamzah Rahmat and Yeoh Soon Hin believe that Penang has what it takes to attract more domestic tourists to the island-state post Covid-19.
Travel chiefs Hamzah Rahmat and Yeoh Soon Hin believe that Penang has what it takes to attract more domestic tourists to the island-state post Covid-19.

Positive signs for tourism recovery are coming out of Penang as expressed by travel agents and hoteliers during a recent B2B event organised by Penang Global Tourism (PGT) as part of a fam trip for Klang Valley travel agents.

The B2B session on August 13, which took place at the Evergreen Laurel Hotel in Gurney, followed a three-night intensive fam tour during which the travel agents, many of whom specialise in Muslim/Halal tours, were shown new and less-promoted destinations on Penang island and the mainland portion of the state in Seberang Perai.

Penang Tourism Economy Recovery Advisory Board (PETERAB) member Hamzah Rahmat, who initiated the trip and led this group of outbound travel agents on the fam programme, urged outbound travel agents to think outside the box as it will be some time before mutually-agreed open borders with other countries are put in place after the Covid-19 pandemic recovery period.

“Since the borders are closed, we have to reimagine our various states as international destinations and give Malaysians the travel they are craving for. And Penang ticks all the boxes as an 'international destination',” opined Hamzah, who was the immediate past president of the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents.

Since July, Malaysians have been flocking to Penang when the restrictions on interstate travel were lifted. Penang Tourism Development, Arts, Culture and Heritage State Exco Yeoh Soon Hin said the state’s ability to have zero Covid-19 cases for 100 days has given confidence to Penangites as well as fellow Malaysians to travel within the state for leisure, work and business purposes.

Speaking during a briefing to the fam group earlier, Yeoh said that Penang was the first state in Malaysia to kickstart a safety accreditation programme for hotels, malls and attractions.

“At state level, we have also established two committees to assist in tourism recovery efforts, the Tourism Penang Next Norm Task Force and PETERAB. We are the first to also launch the Responsible Tourism campaign to continuously engage, educate and encourage compliance,” he added.

Occupancies were beginning to reach some levels of normalcy, with some hoteliers were even seeing higher than expected figures. While the detection of several new Covid cases in Penang, imported from the neighbouring state of Kedah, have put a slight damper, the trade was generally positive about the recovery progress and had no issues with the SOPs imposed by the state authorities.

Sheikh Awadh Sheik Abdullah, managing director, GOTZ Travel and Tours, said: “Penang will certainly draw in visitors because of the confidence they have in how the state has handled the pandemic, but also because it has always had a lot of products to offer and now from this trip we have discovered even more."

Other travel agents also expressed excitement over the new destinations shown to them during the trip, with two of them fashioning a new Penang package and locking down bookings at the end of the event, Travel Weekly Asia has learnt.

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