Past Events

Rebuilding Tourism for the Future

Date: 27 September 2021, Monday
Time: 8.00pm–9.30pm
Venue: Facebook Live @Penanginstitute

About the Webinar

Tourism continues to be one of the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic and the outlook remains highly uncertain. International tourism ground to a halt as countries closed their borders and restricted travel to control the spread of the virus, while domestic tourism saw a significant drop as a result of the Movement Control Orders (MCO). Although flexible policy solutions may enable the tourism sector to function alongside the virus in the short to medium term, it is important to look beyond this to see how the crisis has revealed gaps in government and industry preparedness and response capacity. This webinar discussed on the issues and challenges faced by tourism industry in Penang, as well as how to reopen the tourism sector successfully. Measures and strategies to build a more sustainable and resilient tourism sector was also discussed. Key takeaways from the webinar can be found below.

About the Speakers

Ms. Ooi Geok Ling, OGL consultancy

Ooi Geok Ling was the former Managing Director of Penang Global Tourism, a state tourism organisation set up in 2009. She left five years after setting it up, leaving a legacy of innovative projects, events and campaigns, including a very early mobile app for Penang tourism in 2010. She then took on consulting roles and organised the first Penang Leadership Forum for all heads of state agencies with thought-leaders from different countries and across multiple disciplines. In 2018, together with the Web In Travel team from Singapore, she co-founded and co-organised WIT Indie, a platform for independents and creatives to learn, network, collaborate and share best practices. She has also held consulting roles with hotels and a travel agency. Geok Ling is an alumnus of Universiti Sains Malaysia with a BSC in Education and Physics Major.

Ms. Katharine Chua, Vice-Chairperson, Association of Tourism Attractions Penang (ATAP)

Katharine Chua is a Vice-Chairperson of the Association of Tourism Attractions Penang (ATAP). ATAP is an association that encourage the establishment, promotion, development and improvement of tourism attractions, tourism products and services in Penang. Katharine is also a custodian of Tropical Spice Garden, a sustainable eco-tourism project—and her personal beloved ‘eden’ for the past 17 years. The gardens for her is more than just ‘business as usual’ or just another tourism attraction – rather it is an expression of an ideal lifestyle and culture, of living as close to nature as possible, and of understanding the symbiotic relationship between man and environment, and between culture and nature. The garden offers a place for visitors to become a child again, and remain naive enough to wonder about nature. Katharine is a graduate in Sociology and Education from the University of York, UK.

Ms. Yeong Pey Jung, Senior Analyst, Penang Institute

Yeong Pey Jung is a Senior Analyst with the Socioeconomcs and Statistics department at Penang Institute. She graduated from the University of Melbourne with a double degree in Arts (Psychology & Political Science) and Commerce (Economics), continuing on to obtain a Master in Business (Economics) from Swinburne University of Technology. Her main research work revolves around gender issues, minority marginalisation, poverty and socioeconomic issues in development.

Moderator: Dr. Negin Vaghefi, Senior Analyst, Socioeconomics and Statistics Programme, Penang Institute


0:26 – 3:30:- Introduction and welcoming remarks by moderator, Negin Vaghefi
3:31 – 18:28:- Presentation by Ms. Yeong Pey Jung, Senior Analyst, Penang Institute
18:29 – 20:41:- Introduction of Panelists
1. Ms. Ooi Geok Ling, OGL consultancy
2. Ms. Katharine Chua, Vice-Chairperson, Association of Tourism Attractions Penang (ATAP)
20:43 – 1:16:27:- Panel discussion
1:16:29 – 1:31:31:- Q & A session


Key Takeaways from the Webinar

Overview of the Penang’s Tourism Industry since the Onset of the Covid-19 Pandemic:

  • As a result of the pandemic, lockdowns and massive uncertainties, the tourism industry has seen a significant loss of income, especially in the areas of retail trade, hospitality industry, MICE tourism, as well as medical tourism.
  • Ecotourism and its local communities also suffered huge losses.
  • Domestic tourism has undoubtedly fared better compared to international tourism but still severely affected.
  • In 2020, domestic tourism saw a negative growth of 42.2%.
  • The total loss of domestic tourist receipts is estimated to be roughly RM3.6 billion.
  • The model of ecotourism is seen as one of ways forward in rethinking post-pandemic tourism.
  • It is recommended to emphasis on wide-open spaces and on small groups of tourists for the purpose of nature preservation and sustainability.

Issues and Challenges Faced by Tourist Attractions During the Pandemic:

  • Current situation of tourism attractions is critical with zero income and prevailing operation costs such as rental, utilities and staffing.
  • Many businesses in the tourism sector forced to either temporarily or permanently shut down due to the prolonged lockdown with no end in sight.
  • Other challenges include transforming the business amidst uncertainty, time pressures, reduce manpower, salary negotiation, planning for an unplannable situation.

Lessons Learned for the Travel and Tourism Sector from the Pandemic:

  • Times of crisis bring tough challenges, but they also present new opportunities.
  • Crises are often times of major restructuring and rethinking.
  • Diversification is important. Move away from single source of income.
  • Healthier cash flow is needed.
  • Risk assessment needs to be studied more carefully.
  • Never ignore local market.
  • Focus on where the value of your business and story are.

How to Re-Open Tourist Attractions Successfully?

  • Learning to live with Covid-19 as endemic. This is the time to reset more sustainable tourism – small numbers.
  • Educating people on how to self-care and self-treat– empower the population.
  • Outdoor attractions have a clear advantage.
  • Readiness and preparedness are important. The issue of opening boarders or interstate travelling is more the issue of what do we do when tourists arrive. It is more a question of what the guidelines for people who moving around would be.

Measures to Build a More Sustainable and Resilient Tourism Sector:

  • A product to be sustainable must be first relevant and appreciated by the local community.
  • Focus on the core of your business (basics and fundamentals).
  • Develop deeper and longer experiences.
  • The future of tourism will strongly rely on digital technologies as well as innovative ideas. These innovations are in fact going to shape the new tourist experience.
  • Moving to a greener tourism system.
  • Building community based tourism.
  • Moving away from mass tourism and focusing more on alternative tourism which is greener, sustainable and based on small groups.