BALIK PULAU, June 26 — The Ministry of Rural Development (KPLB) is helping to promote homestays throughout the country to attract local and foreign tourists to boost the economy, said KPLB Deputy Minister II Datuk Hasbi Habibollah.

He said the initiative was also aimed at reviving the homestay sector affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“For over two years, the pandemic brought about severe economic impacts on homestay operators and some of them had to close shop due to the lack of tourists. We are confident that tourists will return and the tourism activities involving homestays will be revived,” he told reporters after officiating the Visit My [email protected] Pulau Betong programme at Sekolah Kebangsaan Tan Seri Awang Had Salleh, here today.

He said apart from using social media to promote the homestays, KPLB also carries out the initiative at other events such as exhibitions hosted by its agencies as well as by the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agencies (MATTA), entrepreneurship expos, rural entrepreneur carnivals and others.

Hasbi said he was confident that these promotional activities could attract foreign tourists to come back as they had the experience of staying at homestays here.

He also advised operators to improve the facilities provided at their premises to welcome tourists.

As Balik Pulau is known for its durians, Hasbi said operators must use that to their advantage to cater to tourists’ needs.

“Homestays have unique and unconventional business features, to create a high-impact business we should evolve and move in line with technological developments,” he said.

Meanwhile, Hasbi said KPLB through the Penang Regional Development Authority (Perda) has allocated RM4.45 million for the homestay tourism programme in Penang since 2014 which is the government’s initiative to safeguard the interests of homestay operators in the state.

He said a total of 173 homestays and participants involving 10 villages have benefited from the allocation through promotion, training and guidance and management programmes that could help the rural community generate additional income.

He said the state homestay programme is also supported by the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture (Motac) through its certification and recognition and promotional activities such as the MATTA Fair events.

According to Hasbi, the total income of home stay participants throughout Penang is RM 3.24 million with 38,000 domestic and international tourists since the programme was introduced in 2014.

“The promotional activities for homestay tourism in Penang will not end. We will continue promoting it using various platforms to encourage more domestic and foreign tourists to make homestays their holiday destinations,” he said. — Bernama