GEORGE TOWN: Deeply affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, tourism is slowly coming back to life, but with smaller groups of visitors enjoying a better vacation experience.
While in the past, a 40-tourist bus was the norm, new-norm travelers now prefer quality over quantity in smaller private groups of 20 friends or family or fewer.
With smaller groups on private tours, they might expect to be taken to places not “covered in guides,” said Penang Tour Guide Association (PTGA) vice president Clement Liang. .
“We have time to show our tourists the nooks and crannies, our old little shops in the alleys that foreigners don’t know,” he said, adding that it would give them an experience they never had. not appreciated before.
While such tours are a bit more expensive, the small groups, Liang said, allowed for more flexibility and a tailor-made experience.
“This is a tailor-made tour and a long time ago that was how it was done. Due to the pandemic, this old method is coming back, ”he said, advising travelers to rely on reputable travel agents registered with the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture.
The Chairman of the Malaysian Association of Travel and Travel Agents (MATTA), Datuk Tan Kok Liang, also expresses his satisfaction with the growing trend of private tours.
“It was the essence of the trip. You go to another place for no other reason than to immerse yourself in a different culture. You taste their food and see how they make and sell things.
“Then when you come home, you mix all of these new ideas into your everyday life and create something new,” Tan said.
Somehow, at the height of mass tourism before Covid-19 hit, all of that was lost, he said.
“People went in large groups, rushed around, took a few pictures to prove they were there and left. It was touch and go, and the real purpose of tourism was lost.
“But because of the pandemic, the big groups will not happen. So although the tourism industry has suffered a lot, it looks like the essence of travel is returning now, ”he said.
Tan said that the MATTA fair from November 20 to 21 will aim to revive the tourism industry with the added value of an immersive experience for travelers.
“As we reset, I call on all tour operators to be aware that travelers are price sensitive now. Let’s make sure we stay within client budgets, ”he added.
Among the local guides returning to action in Penang is Joann Khaw, a full-time licensed guide since 1993.
Khaw recently took a French family living in Kuala Lumpur on a walking tour of the heritage enclave of George Town and before that, a large family from Kuala Lumpur who wanted to take a ‘foodie’ trip.
Khaw described leading a small group as “cheerful” because it gave her the opportunity to fully explain small details, such as those about heritage buildings in Penang.
“I could help them appreciate the progression of the architecture of our pre-war homes over the centuries,” she added.
PTGA Chairman PC Chin said licensed guides in Penang would soon receive special training on maintaining strict Covid-19 precautions during guided tours.
“Tour guides need to lead the way in helping travelers stay safe from the virus. Sometimes in the excitement of visiting new places, they can forget about themselves.
“So it is the guides’ job to make sure that basic rules like physical distancing and constant disinfection are still applied,” Chin said.