GEORGE TOWN, Oct 11 — Several popular beaches along Penang’s Batu Ferringhi tourist belt remained clear of visitors except for a few stragglers, most of whom are from Penang, today on the first day Putrajaya lifted the interstate travel ban.
Over at one of the beaches, directly behind a row of luxurious beachfront resorts, a lone figure holding a large bag walked the beach trying to sell his wares to the few local families picnicking along the stretch.
Remy Teo used to be a trader at the iconic Batu Ferringhi Night Market but since stalls are still not allowed to reopen at the night market, he has taken to going along beachfronts to sell his wares.
“I still need to survive so I am doing this until the pasar malam reopens,” he said.
The 66-year-old is selling watercolour paintings of Penang scenery, from the beaches to cityscapes, that were painted by his artist friend, Lye.
“The night market has been closed for long stretches of time over the past one and a half years and many of my other trader friends have gone bankrupt,” he said.
He said the businesses and traders along the Batu Ferringhi tourist belt depended heavily on international tourists previously and now, they can only hope on domestic tourists with the lifting of the interstate travel ban.
“Even the hotels are throwing out 50 per cent discounts to attract domestic tourists and I am also selling these paintings at 50 per cent discount,” he said.
Teo’s story is echoed by many other businesses along the stretch including water sports operator, Man Dali.
According to Man, the Batu Ferringhi beachfront is the liveliest place to be during every weekend and even on weekdays before the pandemic.
However, since March last year, the beachfront was mostly empty and his business has suffered tremendously since then.
“We were closed for five months and I had to rely only on my savings with zero income while still having to maintain and service my equipment,” he said.
The 59-year-old reopened his water sports activities offering speed boat rides, parasailing and jet skis on October 1 and is hoping to get some business this coming weekend.
He said in the recent weekend there were already more people, most of whom are from Penang, visiting the beach.
“We can only hope the lifting of interstate travel ban will bring even more visitors here so that we can once again earn a living,” he said.
Although most of the families found picnicking along the Batu Ferringhi beaches today are from Seberang Perai and Penang island, there were also a few from Perak who took a day trip to Penang with their young children.
Engineer Mohd Yamin Mohd Yusuf and his wife, Siti Farhanah Suhaimi, from Taiping, Perak brought their four-year-old and one-year-old over to Penang for a day trip this morning.
“We wanted to go to Entopia but it is closed so we brought them to the beach, later we will drive around to look for places that are not too crowded to visit,” they said.
The family, who left Taiping at 8.45am and reached Penang at around 10.30am, said traffic was smooth on the way up to Penang.
Mohd Yamin said he is off on Sundays and Mondays which is why they are able to take a day trip to Penang today.
“We plan to balik kampung to Perlis next week as we have not gone back to see our parents for over 10 months,” he said.
Another family taking a day trip to Penang is another engineer from Perak, Soffian Zuber with his wife, Aina Fauziah Md Noh and one-year-old daughter.
“We are from Bukit Merah, just a 30 minutes drive, so we drove over this morning for a day trip,” Aina said.
She said they had planned to visit Entopia too but since it is closed, they took a detour to the beach instead.
“This is the first time my daughter is in Penang and she’s so happy to play at the beach,” she said.
The family doesn’t plan to stay over in Penang and will drive back to Perak later in the afternoon.
Earlier, Penang tourism and creative economy committee chairman Yeoh Soon Hin said the state and the tourism players are prepared to receive visitors from other states.
Yeoh said the tourism sector in the state is expecting to bounce back soon and that all of the attractions and hotels are fully prepared with strict SOPs to receive visitors.