Penang is turning increasingly trendy since its inception as a UNESCO World Heritage Site back to 2008. Old districts have been carefully renovated, many of the old houses of Penang capital city, Georgetown, have been renovated and are home to boutique hotels, hipster coffee shops , art galleries or museums. Coupled with the benefits of a weak ringgit, tourist arrivals are on the rise. Domestic tourism is particularly booming as many Malaysians are deterred to travel abroad due to their weakening currency versus most other regional currencies.
Last year, according to Ooi Chok Yan, CEO of Penang Global Tourism, the regional state agency in charge of tourism promotion and development, arrivals at the airport grew to 6.6 million passengers. This would representent roughly some 3.2 million of guests in all accommodation, both domestic and international. Foreign travellers reached last year approximayely 1.4 million.
Hotels particularly enjoyed Penang tourism boom with their average occupancy rate up by 10 points compared to 2015 in a range of 63% to 65%. budget hotels are particularly high in demand with average occupancy fluctuating between 80% and 90%.
Penang Global Tourism Ooi Chok Yan is now looking at improving tourists’experience, raising the quality of the destination. An essential task if the island wants to maintain its momentum as a popular destination. “We now work at improving the tourist experience as well as preserving the balance between tourism development and our own citizens’ daily life. This is a delicate relation as we want to keep Penang’s authenticity”, he tells Ooi Chok Yan.
pen,ang three main tourism pillars for promotion are culture and art, eco-tourism and gastronomy, themes that will be reinforced over the years to come.
A major issue is now traffic in town with many roads being totally congested. The State launched its own transportation plan to be implemented which also comprises the construction of a MRT network which will- among others- connect the airport and Penang new convention centre to Georgetown.
Among new tourism initiatives are cycling products with city bikes being now offered in Georgetown and the creation of bikes lanes. “All issues linked to transporation take more time as we have also to deal with the federal ministry of transport. But this is definitely coming!” added Ooi.
Other highlight of this year is the creation of a designers’ village, one of the first of its kind in Malaysia. We are also actively promoting The Habitat, a sustainable eco-friendly attraction on Penang Hill with nature trails with the discovery of wild animals, offering soon a canopy walk and a tree top walk with views embracing the entire island”, adds Penang Global Tourism CEO.