Mesej Ketua Menteri Pulau Pinang
A very good afternoon ladies and gentlemen.
Welcome to this virtual roundtable on Penang Tourism, The Next Norm”. As the title says, we are here to discuss how Covid-19 has affected the tourism industry in Penang and perhaps to gain feedback from the industry players and experts gathered in this virtual discussion, on ideas to deal with what we call “the next normal”.
The pandemic has brought about a new situation unfamiliar to most of us. It has changed how we do things, how we move, how we interact with one another, how we do business.
This unfamiliarity means we lost the sense of certainty and predictability so vital for governments and businesses.
In Penang, we plan ahead and take action.
On 5 March, when Malaysia was only beginning to be alerted of a second wave of the Covid-19 infection, the state government already advised the cancellation of the Yosakoi festival. In less than a week, on 11 March, we issued a directive to cancel all events involving public gatherings.
Again, in less than a week’s time, on 16 March, we launched the Penang Lawan Covid-19 campaign even before the movement control order (MCO) was announced by the federal government.
The Penang state government laid down a 3Cs strategy which stands for – Control of the epidemic, Communication to the public and Containment of the impacts of Covid-19.
Our 3Cs strategy complemented the federal government’s Covid-19 measures, resulting in Penang managing to keep the number of Covid-19 cases relatively low. Despite being the most densely populated state in Malaysia, a major contributing factor for the spread of diseases, Penang consistently has the second lowest number of Covid-19 cases per capita in the country, after Kedah our northern neighbour.
As we are halfway through Phase 3 of the MCO and with the federal government’s latest announcement of a Phase 4 two-week extension, the Penang state government has already begun to unfold our Strategi Next Normal Pulau Pinang, a post-disaster plan to deal with the new situation we are facing due to the pandemic.
We want to ensure the resilience of our state by re-adapting our institutions, our economy and our society to the next normal.
Which is why the state government has instructed InvestPenang to form a Penang Economic Next Normal Taskforce to identify the next economic trends and to design a strategy to attract new investments to our state.
Last Monday, the state government via Digital Penang convened a virtual roundtable to engage technologists and experts in various fields to look into tech solutions to help us deal with the next normal.
Tourism is undeniably a key sector for Penang. We are proud to be one of Malaysia’s foremost tourist destination. We are proud to offer a wide spectrum of tourism products: from our world-famous street food, to our cherished heritage, from eco-tourism exploring our hills and seas, to medical tourism because of the confidence placed on Penang’s healthcare system, from our rich art, culture and tradition warmed by the gentle Penang weather and gentler Penang smiles, to our state-of-the-art, modern meeting and conference facilities.
The tourism sector hires more than 150,000 workers in Penang and is worth RM9 billion in value-added, operating in more than 35,700 business establishments.
Penang Institute, the state government’s think-tank, in its latest crisis assessment report, observed that the service sector which includes tourism and its sub-sectors will be the worst hit sector by this Covid-19 pandemic. I think this is quite obvious to the industry players gathered here.
In fact, this is why we are here today. We know your troubles and we want to hear from you. I want to assure you that the state government is serious in tackling the issues faced by your industry.
When we designed our Pakej Bantuan Rakyat Pulau Pinang which was disbursed on 1 April, we made sure that the most vulnerable groups including those in the tourism industry were given immediate assistance. Tour guides, trishaw peddlers, taxi drivers and e-hailing drivers, hawkers were all given cash aids. For SME owners including those in the service sector, the state government came up with the Skim Peka PKS which are interest-free loans specially designed for SMEs.
For our famous street food, the two city councils have launched online platforms to onboard hawkers to the digital economy so that even if their customers are not allowed to go to the hawkers, the hawkers can still deliver food to their customers.
The State Government is also looking into waiving hotel fees for the coming six months in order to support the industry through these trying times.
Earlier this week, I announced the formation of a Tourism Penang Next Normal Taskforce to be chaired personally by me with our Tourism, Heritage, Culture and Arts Exco, YB Yeoh Soon Hin as the Deputy. You are receiving attention from the highest level of the state government because we want to ensure Penang will regain our strength in this sector.
The first job of the taskforce is to listen to our industry players and stakeholders. We want to solicit your ideas, views and hear your predicament. From thence, we will formulate a statewide policy to deal with the next normal in our tourism.
While the state government is keen to assist, industry players must also re-adapt to the next normal. Business as usual will not do anymore. Please forget about attracting crowds of people in the next three to six months if not longer. Not only Malaysia is in a semi-lockdown, most of the governments in the world are banning their citizens from travelling abroad for fear of them catching the virus and causing another infection chain when they return to their home country. Some of you may have to change your operation process. Some of you may even have to change your business model. But whatever it is, let me assure you that the state government will be with you as we face this crisis together.
Thank you once again for joining our virtual roundtable today.
CHOW KON YEOW