The Penang Tourism Master Plan (PTMP), which has drawn the industry into a protracted and controversial debate over what is required to boost the island’s appeal, will continue to come under the spotlight when tourism stakeholders gather on the stage of WiT Indie in Penang on March 13.
The new master plan, which charts out the state’s tourism direction, calls for 104 initiatives, including physical projects and programmes, but industry practitioners doubt this is what Penang needs.
“You (the state) talk about revitalising alternative tourism, and yet, I see micro projects of building this or that structure when there is no proof that building more things will bring in more tourists,” Ooi Geok Ling, co-founder of WiT Indie, said to local media.
Penang’s international tourism has been floundering, with foreign arrivals dipping from its high point in 2014 at 717,714 to 553,100 in 2017. Last year, it climbed back up to 669,679, but numbers are likely to drop again due to the current Covid-19 crisis.
Some industry players have expressed disappointment in the tourism plan not “addressing the needs of travellers or operators” nor “optimising what Penang has to offer”.
“I do not think the plan addresses a sustainable outlook for the future, as it is based on large investments and more developments, rather than utilising the amazing culture and natural resources we currently have,” opined Nardya Wray, owner of luxury boutique hotel, Campbell House.
Rather, Penang should be promoting its “natural” self, as Eric Chong, owner of Penang Green Acres, suggested. “Focus on our natural heritage of the hills, nature parks, mangroves, cottage industries,” he said.
Chong will contribute to a panel discussion on sustainability in tourism at WiT Indie, alongside other champions of sustainability, including Andrew Dixon of Nikoi and Cempedak Islands, Bintan, Indonesia; Uttara Sarkar Crees of Gyalthang Eco Travel; and Irshad Mubarak, owner, JungleWalla Tours, Langkawi.
Stakeholders have been given a two-week period to give feedback before the masterplan is finalised.