GEORGE TOWN, Sept 17 — The proposed test run to reopen selected outdoor tourist attractions in Penang is the only way for the industry to survive and find a way forward, the Association of Tourism Attractions Penang (ATAP) said today.
ATAP chairman Ch’ng Huck Theng said the association is aware of the high number of Covid-19 cases both in the state and across Malaysia, but the industry needs to stay afloat during this challenging time too.
“We, in the tourism industry, need to move forward and prepare for post-Covid. This is why we proposed the test run for four selected outdoor tourist attractions. It is about reopening with responsibility,” he said today.
He said ATAP proposed this test run to the state government last week as a way for the state to slowly reopen its tourism industry.
“It is to set the stage for successful comebacks in this industry and it is an important move for the industry because industry players have suffered the brunt of the frequent lockdowns for 18 months,” he said.
He said many of these businesses are barely staying afloat due to the prolonged forced closure and this test run is the first step in reopening the industry in a responsible manner with limited capacity, limited days of opening and strict compliance to standard operating procedures (SOPs).
“We have even spoken to the police and we have no issues working with the police to enforce strict SOPs on all visitors,” he said.
He said ATAP had asked Putrajaya to allow tourist attractions to reopen with strict SOPs but to no avail, so it decided to propose this test run instead.
He pointed out that places like markets and factories contributed to the mounting Covid-19 cases in the state and the country, yet they are allowed to reopen after sanitising and being closed for a few days.
“Why is the tourism industry left to die?” he asked.
He also hoped that politicians do not use the test run proposal as a way to “play politics” such as the recent criticisms by Penang Gerakan against the proposal.
“This test run proposal is for the industry’s survival. It involves businesses that have been severely impacted by prolonged closures. It involves the livelihood of workers and their families. Don’t use this to play politics and put sand in people’s rice bowls,” he said.
He said it is time that leaders put politics aside and think of ways to help the people and the economy because the threat lies not only with Covid-19, but also everyone’s survival in a floundering economy.
He added that he hopes Putrajaya will approve the test run proposal as it will throw a lifeline to the tourism industry, while offering the hope that more tourist attractions will be allowed to reopen in the near future.
The test run proposal only involves four outdoor attractions: The Habitat, Tropical Spice Garden, Penang Tropical Fruit Farm and Penang Bird Park.
It has been suggested that the attractions will only be accessible to fully vaccinated visitors who pre-book their tickets online prior to their visit.
The number of visitors to each site will be capped at 30 at any one time, with everyone required to comply with Covid-19 SOPs.