GEORGE TOWN – For tourists not caught up in the Covid-19 (novel coronavirus) fear, it is a great time to be in Penang.
In Armenian Street, where hordes of tourists used to line up just to get a chance to take photos with the Children on Bicycle mural, they can now take all the time they want to strike the perfect pose.
A check at the Unesco heritage enclave yesterday showed only a handful of visitors.
Among the few shopping for souvenirs were student Nadhirah Ahmad Tamizi and her friends from Parit Buntar, Perak.
“I think it is okay without the crowd. We are cautious about crowded areas.
“We are only here for a day trip. Initially, we were reluctant to travel but wanted to do this before we get our SPM results.
“We brought our masks and will take proper precaution and care of our personal hygiene, ” said the 18-year-old.
Another tourist, Filip Eyer, 15, came with his family from the Czech Republic.
“We follow all the basic precautions and take good care of our personal hygiene, ” he said.
“We are not really afraid of the outbreak. I think the issue has been blown up.”
However, shop owners in the state are suffering.
Living store owner Henry Chew, 26, said he had suffered over 70 per cent drop in profits since news on the outbreak became widespread.
“Due to the virus, many people are afraid to travel and choose to stay at home. This street used to be so crowded as tourists flocked here by groups.
“Now, the whole street is just empty with very few visitors, ” he said when met at his shop.
Chew added that since early this month, the street had been quiet.
Another shop owner Irene Yeoh, 56, said business was good before the outbreak.
“We have not had many tourists here these days, as many people are afraid to travel, ” she said.
“For now, we can only hope that the situation is temporary as our business is badly affected.”
According to reports, tourist arrivals from China dropped by almost 40 per cent and tourism players were bracing themselves for a 60 per cent drop.
Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said the situation could get worse if the travel restrictions imposed by China was prolonged.
He said despite the state’s efforts to organise Experience Penang 2020, the virus scare had affected tourist arrivals.
The Penang Tourist Guides Association has sought help from the government to get Malaysians to go on domestic holidays to cushion the impact.
For the latest updates on the coronavirus virus, visit here.