Penang tourism group welcomes travel bubble concept, hopes for expansion from Langkawi to other states

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ATAP chairman Ch'ng Huck Theng said the introduction of the travel bubble in Langkawi is a good move to start reopening the tourism sector in the country. — Picture by Steven Ooi KE
ATAP chairman Ch'ng Huck Theng said the introduction of the travel bubble in Langkawi is a good move to start reopening the tourism sector in the country. — Picture by Steven Ooi KE

GEORGE TOWN, Sept 20 — The Association of Tourism Attractions Penang (ATAP) and Malaysian Association of Hoteliers (MAH) Penang Chapter hope that the travel bubble concept introduced in Langkawi will be expanded to other states.

ATAP chairman Ch’ng Huck Theng said the introduction of the Langkawi travel bubble is a good move to start reopening the tourism sector in the country.

“It is good that they are opening up the tourism sector and what they did in Langkawi has given other states hope that this too can be implemented in their respective states,” he said.

He proposed that Putrajaya allow the respective state governments to decide on what can be allowed to reopen.

He said Putrajaya should not use the outcome of Langkawi’s travel bubble as a way to decide whether tourism can be allowed in other states.

“Langkawi does not represent all tourism attractions in the whole country so if the travel bubble were to fail, it should not be used as a way to keep all tourism attractions in the whole country closed indefinitely,” he said.

He said if one factory was ordered to close due to Covid-19 cases, all other factories were not ordered to close. Similarly this should be the same for the tourism industry.

Meanwhile, MAH Penang chapter chairman Raj Kumar said the Langkawi travel bubble can be used as a benchmark for other states to learn, improve and fine-tune the SOPs for reopening.

“We hope that after Langkawi, Penang will be the second state to be chosen for a travel bubble,” he said.

He said the tourism industry in Penang will be fully ready for reopening by middle of October as most of the workers would have been fully vaccinated by then.

“We can only hope that the number of cases will be reduced by then,” he said.

Both Ch’ng and Raj Kumar said Penang is in dire need of a boost from a travel bubble or a reopening of its tourism industry with strict standard operating procedures (SOPs).

“Many hotels have remained closed because without a higher volume of customers, they will not be able to cover costs and we can only get that with more visitors,” he said.

He said implementing strict SOPs such as a mandatory self-test before checking in is a good move.

Ch’ng said the tourism industry will have to be reopened eventually and the best way is to do it responsibly.

“Almost all industries are open now. Cinemas are open, spas are open, so many other places are open, we should be allowed to reopen too and we can do it with strict SOPs,” he said.

He said private tourism attractions require ticketing and this is a way to control crowds and the number of people entering any specific place.

“These places have strict SOPs and with proper management, it can be done,” he said.

In contrast, public spaces like parks and beaches do not have any management or control in place and are open to all to visit freely.

He said the whole tourism industry involves the livelihood of thousands of people, not only the owners, but also all of the workers who have families to feed.

“Keeping these places closed will only result in more shutting down and more people losing their jobs and this is not what we want,” he added.

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