Penang tourism players appeal for federal aid as second MCO hits hard

Visitors walk past street art at a heritage site in George Town December 22, 2020. — Picture by KE Ooi
Visitors walk past street art at a heritage site in George Town December 22, 2020. — Picture by KE Ooi

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GEORGE TOWN, Jan 15 ― The Penang tourism industry had barely been recovering before the renewed movement control order (MCO) brought it to halt, according to Association of Tourist Attractions Penang (ATAP) chairman Ch’ng Huck Theng.

He said the industry was in danger of collapsing if the government does not extend any financial aid or assistance to businesses in the sector.

“Hence, while curbing the Covid-19 curve, the government needs to, at the same time, make sure companies survive and retain their staff,” he said when contacted.

He said “rescuing” the tourism industry players is an important priority.

He said the implementation of the second MCO was understandable as the number of Covid-19 infections has spiraled out of control in recent weeks.

However, he said the government must also look at ways to help the tourism industry survive this challenging time.

He said a collapse of the sector would be devastating as many companies and jobs would disappear entirely.

This could spill over into other parts of the economy as well as become a threat to national security by forcing desperate Malaysians towards crime, he said.

Ch’ng noted that, last year, the government had announced loan repayment moratoriums, wage subsidies and low-interest relief funds that helped the industry.

“The tourism industry is yet to see any of such aid in this MCO 2.0,” he said.

He hoped the government remembers that the tourism industry will be one of the main contributing industries to the country’s economy once the borders reopen.

The MCO was imposed on six states including Penang due to escalating Covid-19 cases.

Under the MCO this year, interstate and inter-district travel were not allowed. While hotels were allowed to operate during the MCO, most tourist attractions in Penang were closed.

The MCO is from January 13 to 26.

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