Tourists seeking to escape winter

The current hot spell may be a bother for locals but not for tourists from countries in the Northern Hemisphere who are arriving here in droves to bask in the sunshine. Many of them are coming to Penang Island to escape the freezing winter in their homeland. Dutch tourist Peter Zoetelief, 46, and his wife, Danielle, 43, were spotted soaking up the sun on the beach in Batu Ferringhi. The couple, who has been in Penang for the past one week, said they love the hot weather here. “We believe our bodies are not suited for the cold weather in Holland,” quipped Zoetelief, who works with an airline company there. His wife said this was their third visit to Penang. “We simply love the island. The people are friendly,” she said as the couple waited for a boat to ferry them to Monkey Beach near Muka Head.

Martin Abrahamson, 21, and his girlfriend Marthe Duyrop, 22, from Norway, were also spotted enjoying themselves on the beach in Batu Ferringhi. “It is always cold in my country. The sunshine here is a welcome relief,” said Abrahamson.

A check at major hotels showed many are already fully booked for the Christmas season. E&O Hotel communications and public relations manager Mazeta Hassan said there was a surge of tourists coming to Penang from countries experiencing winter. She said the hotel was fully booked from Dec 18 until the first week of January. “Some 70% of our guests are from European countries while 30% are from Australia. They seem to enjoy the warm weather here. Many of them can be seen lounging by the pool throughout the day,” she said.

Malaysian Association of Hotels Penang Chapter president Marco G. Battistotti said the island was becoming more popular among tourists from northern Europe. He said there was a 4% to 6% increase in the number of hotel bookings on the island between mid-December and mid-February. “Many of the tourists hail from countries that have winter. A good number of them also prefer to stay in condominiums in Batu Ferringhi. “Some hotels also have long-staying foreign guests during this period,” he said.

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