GEORGE TOWN: The once popular Batu Ferringhi tourist belt is buzzing with activity again, thanks to traders at the night market getting a new lifeline due to support from local tourists.

With foreign tourists only trickling in after the reopening of international borders, traders are seeing a boost from domestic tourists staying at the nearby beach hotels during the weekends.

“There are not many foreign tourists here yet and we must thank the local tourists for supporting our business,” said Lena Kam, 41, who sells beach clothing, hats, caps and souvenirs.

“There are a few Arab tourists, with some from China and Japan. I can say about 70% of our business now comes from the locals.”

Kam expects foreign tourists to be here in December during the Christmas period, mostly from Europe.

Penang’s famed Batu Ferringhi tourist belt has been a lucrative stretch for night traders for years as they ply their trade along the narrow main road.

However, all this changed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The subsequent movement control order, as well as the ban on foreign travellers, eventually sent their business into a tailspin.

A number of them went under, with some reopening only after the MCO was lifted.

Others moved elsewhere to carry on their business.

Checks also showed that most traders now are locals, with only a handful of foreigners around as most have returned to their home country.

Moagan Krishnan, 65, who has been doing business for 40 years selling ready-made clothes and jeans, said business picked up with the influx of local tourists.

“Business during pre-pandemic days was better, but all of us suffered during the MCO. And I am sure the foreigners are not going to come in droves this year due to the fear of travelling,” he said.

Another trader, who sells figurines and toys and wished to be known only as Ah Foo, 35, was thankful to locals from other states for visiting the night market.

“Many visitors like the figurines I sell, but for now, I rely on the locals to buy my products as 80% of my business comes from them.

“Hopefully, international tourists will come back soon and we can see better days ahead,” he said.

Kerk Too Ching, 45, who sells souvenirs, closed his business for two years during the pandemic and only reopened his business a few months ago.

“Although it was tough, I managed to overcome the bad times and now I hope business will pick up over the next few months.

“I have started making souvenirs to suit the locals and my business has improved.

“I even have repeat customers who return to my shop,” he said.

For Looi Keat Loong, 56, the decorative lights and souvenirs at his stall are more suited for the local market.

“I am glad that domestic tourism has picked up well and many are coming back to Batu Ferringhi, especially during weekends,” he said.