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Tapping into medical tourism to nurse back hospitality sector

Tapping into medical tourism to nurse back hospitality sector

18 Oct 2022

Medical tourism has become the shining light, helping to boost a resurgence of the hospitality sector as the country slowly recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic amid an uncertain global outlook.

Tourism players in Penang are banking on this to beat any risk of an inflation.

Instead of a leisurely agenda, healthcare travellers – especially from Indonesia – come to Penang to resolve their ailments.

Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) Penang chapter chairman Tony Goh said this had contributed greatly to hotel occupancy rates, especially for city hotels.

Goh hoped the strong restart of Penang’s hospitality sector would offset any risk of recession next year.

He said the first quarter of the year was slow and revenue for hotels picked up from May to July.

“Overall, it has been going very well now and the last quarter should be better.

“We do receive some tourists from the United Kingdom and Middle East countries but the bulk of our guests are locals and healthcare travellers now,” he said.

MAH national vice-president Datuk Khoo Boo Lim said the flow of tourists from China during the pre-pandemic period was still missing.

“We feel their absence. Travellers from China loved coming to Penang for the food and to experience the contrasts in Chinese cultural practices here.

“We hope the Chinese government will relax their rules soon because Malaysians too love visiting China, so the benefit is two-way,” Khoo said.

China adopts a zero Covid-19 policy and still has strict rules governing cross-border travel.

As another buffer against a recession risk, the state government aspires to have a Penang edition of the Michelin Guide published to add global lustre to Penang’s gastro-tourism scene.

“The recognition by Michelin will bring more visitors to Penang to try out the culinary experience,” said state Tourism Committee chairman Yeoh Soon Hin after Greece signed an agreement with Michelin Guide recently.

Such a prospect would see undercover Michelin inspectors visiting Penang’s food and beverage establishments, from hawkers to fancy restaurants.

These inspectors maintain such a high level of anonymity that they are discouraged from revealing their jobs to family and friends and are barred from speaking to journalists and exposing their identities to the outlets.

They distil their reports in meetings and accord various rankings – one to three stars, the Bib Gourmand rank for “exceptionally good food at moderate prices”, the Plate symbol for restaurants that “simply serve good food” and the Green Star for sustainable gastronomy.

Existing since 1900, there are Michelin Guide editions for countries, regions and cities around the world.

The Singapore edition, published in 2017, lists 30 one-star, seven two-stars and one three-star food establishments.

Yeoh said more and more tourists were searching for destinations with a strong gastronomy presence.

Source: The Star