GEORGE TOWN, Sept 14 — The Penang state government is proposing to reopen four outdoor tourist attractions only to fully vaccinated individuals for a test run.
Tourism and Creative Economy Committee chairman Yeoh Soon Hin said a proposal was submitted to the National Security Council (NSC) for approval.
He said the test run will involve four selected sites initially, and only for three days a week.
“This is only applicable to fully vaccinated visitors who have pre-booked their tickets online prior to the visit,” he said in a statement issued today.
Yeoh said the visitors at each site will be capped at 30 persons at any one time and all visitors will have to comply with Covid-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs).
He said this test run, held in collaboration with the Association of Tourists Attractions Penang (ATAP), is aimed at fine-tuning and improving health protocols at tourist attractions.
The four outdoor attractions involved are The Habitat, Tropical Spice Garden, Penang Tropical Fruit Farm and Penang Bird Park.
“We arrived at this decision after an online meeting with ATAP,” he said.
Yeoh said the four attractions were selected because they have wide open spaces to allow social distancing and good ventilation.
“The tourist attraction operators will also have to work closely with the police and authorities who will be monitoring this test run,” he said.
Yeoh said most of the tourist attractions operators strictly complied with the SOPs before the most recent lockdowns.
“Even now, when other sectors have been allowed to reopen, it is a shame that they are still patiently waiting for the green light,” he said.
He said the prolonged closure is taking a toll on the livelihood of those in the industry.
He said this test run will be a good way to prepare for the full resumption of tourism activities in future.
ATAP treasurer Allen Tan said ATAP mooted the idea of a test run and proposed it to the Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow and Yeoh about 10 days ago.
“We believe this is a concrete first step in heading towards the eventual reopening of the tourism sector in Penang,” he said.
Tan, who is also the managing director of The Habitat, said the test run can demonstrate that tourist attractions can also safely reopen with stringent SOPs.
“If public parks and hiking trails, which are not as strictly regulated, can reopen, why can’t paid outdoor attractions like ours reopen?” he said.
Tan said the tourism industry needs some positive development now; otherwise, more companies and stakeholders might be forced to shut down.
“Ultimately, we want to be like Langkawi and eventually, Phuket for international tourism,” he said.
When contacted, Tropical Spice Garden’s owner, Katharine Joan Chua, said it is a good start for them to reopen under these conditions.
“We have to learn to live with Covid-19. We might as well start now and figure it out as we go along,” she said.
She said it was a wise decision to start the test run with outdoor places as they have the advantage of better ventilation and wider spaces for easier compliance with the SOPs.