A fruitful tourism roadshow in Hatyai

Yeoh (centre, in blue coat), Ooi (on Yeoh's left) with all the Penang sellers at the launch of the 7 World Wonders of Penang in Hatyai.

PARTICIPANTS of the Experience Penang Roadshow in Hatyai have given their thumbs-up to the Penang tourism and creative economy office (Petace) and the Penang Global Tourism (PGT) for organising the event, saying it was a fruitful trip.


As many as 23 sellers from the Penang delegation, the biggest group ever to take part in the tourism roadshow in Hatyai according to PGT chief executive officer Ooi Chok Yan, and 37 Thai counterparts had a very engaging business matching session at the New Season Square Hotel yesterday.


The B2B session was held soon after the launch of the 7 World Wonders of Penang by state Tourism and Creative Economy Committee chairman Yeoh Soon Hin to woo Thai tourists, especially from southern Thailand, to Penang.


A group of Thai youths, mostly university students, strikes a pose after their 7 World Wonders of Penang performance.


The Penang delegation comprised a mixed group of hoteliers, travel agents and representatives from the attractions, medical firms and colleges.


Tony says Penang sellers got to meet the right buyers from Thailand during the roadshow.


Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) Penang Chapter president Tony Goh described the event as a success.


“We have a lot of sellers from Penang and we managed to get true buyers, people who are doing business and bringing tourists to Penang.


“They are the right buyers. That was why you see a lot of interest during the B2B session. Even though the bell rang, they were still discussing seriously. So, I think it was very fruitful and very successful. Buyers and sellers are both very happy.


“You see these agents in Thailand also do student groups to Penang – to learn the English language. Education is also part of their tourism, especially during November and October.


“To us, we want education tourism. When they are young and are sent to Penang, they will be our future supporters once they have a good impression.


“They would want to come back to Penang and bring their family as well. So, they also become our ambassadors.


“To me, they are important ambassadors because in the next few years, they are going to be decision makers.


“This is very important for the future,” said Tony, who is also the general manager of The Wembley – a St Giles Hotel Penang.


Tony, in his presentation at the launch of the 7 World Wonders of Penang, told the congregation that MAH, formed in 1974, has 1,000 members from 13 chapters.


He said MAH Penang Chapter, formed on July 5, 2001, has 93 members out of the 1,000 members and 14,643 rooms. He expects the number of rooms to increase to 15,000 by the end of this year.


Johnny in a B2B session with Plernpawin Winnie, explaining to her the study options in Sentral College..


StudyPenang secretary Johnny Goh said the roadshow was a good opportunity for south Thailand, especially the Songkla province, and Penang to work together as they are near to each other.


According to Johnny, StudyPenang is a collection of Penang colleges that are accredited by the Malaysian Qualifications Agency, a statutory body governed by the Ministry of Education to ensure the quality of Malaysia’s higher education.


“It’s a win-win situation as we are neighbours. We bring business to the local travel agents here and they do the same for us.


“We are also promoting education tourism whereby we want to also invite Thai students to learn English and Chinese. This is the future.


“If the students are multilingual, that will be good for their future. Instead of just speaking the Thai language, they are conversant in English and Chinese languages.


“So, we want to encourage them and motivate them.


“It is also timely that we do this roadshow because the border has just recently been opened.


“Besides offering first-class institutions of higher learning, Penang’s cost of living is also affordable,” Johnny said.


Moh says he has established many contacts with Thai tourism industry players at the roadshow in Hatyai.


The Granite Luxury Hotel general manager Moh Wei Ken said they met a lot of Thai travel agents at the business matching session who gave quite positive feedback.


“There has been a stream of Thais coming to Penang.


“I think the roadshow is a very good platform and what PGT had done is beneficial to us. Because of them (PGT), I have so many Thai contacts. It is sort of bringing our hotel to the international level.


“Some travel agents want cheaper rates, we understand that.


“If they can give us 200 or 300 rooms max per month, why not? It’s a win-win situation,” said Moh, who together with his sales and marketing director Catherine Ooi, was in Hatyai for the tourism roadshow.


Ooi providing more info about The Granite Luxury Hotel to Kirati Saengsri, a Thai travel agent from 108 Tour and Service Ltd in Hatyai during the business matching session.


The Granite, formerly called the M Summit 191 Executive Hotel Suites, recently bagged two Malaysia Book of Records awards for having Malaysia’s Tallest Automated Hotel Car Park at 71.2m and the Highest Cantilevered Acrylic Bottom Swimming Pool at 49.5m.


Tong, in a kebaya outfit, promoting the Pinang Peranakan Mansion to a Thai travel agent.


Pinang Peranakan Mansion manager Lillian Tong said the venue was excellent as she never expected it to be well done.


“The good thing is that this roadshow involved the people of Hatyai. So, we kind of won their hearts.


“They used the university students to do a skit during lunchtime. That was a very good collaboration. For the university students, they have already been introduced to Penang unknowingly at a young age.


“I feel that the Thai people were very enthusiastic. When they came to my booth, a lot of them have heard about Pinang Peranakan Mansion.


“Thai princess Sirindhorn visited our mansion in 2017, the same year as Prince Charles.


“Although we are doing this roadshow in Hatyai, I can see the peripheral people are interested in Penang, especially from Phuket and Satun,” said Tong, who was accompanied by Mary Ooi, a member of the Penang Baba Nyonya Association of which Tong is its president.


Chew (second from left), Khor (left) and Nurul Atikah (right) from Star Medical Group engaging with the Thai tourism industry players in the B2B session.


The participation of Star Medical Group to introduce fertility treatment caught some travel agents by surprise.


But SMG manager and chief embryologist Chew Fang Nang said there are not many fertility centres in Hatyai.


“Currently, the majority of them will go to Bangkok, but of course, they would not mind exploring Penang also.


“In terms of the price, they told me that it is still cheaper compared to Bangkok. So, they would like to explore the option.


“They said that the number of people who know and trust IVF (in vitro fertilisation) treatment is quite high in Hatyai.


“The Thais are happy to have us over here and know there is a fertility centre in Penang,” said Chew, who was assisted by senior embryologist Nurul Atikah and junior embryologist Khor Chin Yin at the roadshow.


Thai tourism industry players at the business matching session with the Penang delegation.


Plernpawin Winnie, a coordinator with Jacky Group in Hatyai, said she took the opportunity to enquire about some courses available in Penang.


“I am also an English teacher and I am interested to know the types of courses and rates for my students.


“Generally, the cost of studying in Penang is quite low compared to studying in the United States or Britain. Moreover, the quality of education in Penang is high. I know that because I took my diploma in international business at IPK College in Bukit Mertajam a few years ago,” said Winnie, who was seen carrying her young daughter.


Pattheera says KTC considers Penang an attractive destination to promote to its 2.5 million card members.

Pattheera Anandchotiphatchara (Patt), the manager of Travel & Leisure Marketing/KTC World, said KTC was excited to collaborate with PGT to promote Penang to its 2.5 million credit card members.


“We think Penang is the right destination to promote because of its similarity to the Thai culture and the closeness to nature.


“After the Thai government has opened the borders, we have seen spending volume in terms of travel category increasing continuously. We noticed that the behaviour of travelling is different.


“Besides that, Penang is easy to access and does not need a visa and PCR test. It is just across the border from Hatyai, and from Bangkok; it takes only one and a half hours by flight.


“We give loyalty points to our KTC card members. For every 1,000 points, the cardholder gets 130 baht, which they can use for a discount on flight tickets, accommodation and tourist attraction ticket reservations.


“This is how we promote and support Penang tourism in terms of the marketing arm and the communication with our card members,” she said.



Story by K.H. Ong

Pix by Muhamad Amir Irsyad Omar and courtesy of Penang Global Tourism