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Unesco-Listed Georgetown 每 A Decade of Good & Bad

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Unesco-Listed Georgetown 每 A Decade of Good & Bad TravelNews


Since earning Unesco World Heritage Site status on July 7, 2008, George Town’s traditions have been the focus of Penang’s booming tourism sector.
 
A former British Straits Settlement, George Town gained the Unesco status for its “outstanding universal values” – tangible and intangible cultures that resulted from more than 500 years of trade and cultural exchanges between the East and West.
 
A year before the designation, tourist arrivals stood at 5.2 million, and jumped 21% to 6.3 million in 2008. Last year, the state estimated that some seven million visitors arrived via Penang International Airport alone.
 
As a tourism destination, the heritage city receives praises on Google Reviews for its old architecture, street art, food, multiracial and multicultural harmony, as well as for being great for “selfie tourism”.
 
The massive tourism potential has spurred some rich building owners and investors to pump money into restoring and renovating many pre-war buildings in the 250ha heritage core and buffer zones, and on their fringes.
 
China-born Chan So Han, 85, has been a George Town resident since 1948, after she left Guangdong to escape the war.
 
The Cantonese-speaking Chan said there has been progress in the city and the rest of Penang, which is good for the people.
 
“Things are very different now, but for the better. The city is better taken care of. Life is also better. There is peace, where everyone gets along.

“I believe the future will be better,” said the retired medicinal tea seller, who lives in “San Thau Kai”, or Lebuh Kimberley.
 
Another resident, Ng Kwang Pheng, 63, also noted the positive changes he has seen in the city, where he grew up.
 
Although he has a house in suburban Paya Terubong, he stays above his rented coffee shop in Lebuh Acheh, a popular tourist street in the heritage enclave.
 
“The shop is 10 years old, too. The rent is average, so it is still manageable. Business in the last few years has not been bad.
 
“The changes in the city over the past decade have been good. With the Unesco listing, development is controlled and many old buildings have been restored.” 

‘One of the best managed’
 
However, state players disagree, claiming that George Town has been doing well as a Unesco site.
 
Penang Islang City Council mayor Yew Tung Seang, who is formerly the council’s Building Department director, said there were more than 500 dilapidated pre-war buildings in the city before 2007, but the number has been greatly reduced.
 
Over the past 10 years, he said, building owners have cooperated with the council and followed regulations when they renovated and restored their properties.
 
“Whether they follow the rules 100% is besides the point. There is no more continuous neglect. The city is cleaner and better-managed today,” he told The Malaysian Insight.
 
Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow recently said George Town was “recognised as one of the best-managed heritage sites”, with government agencies and the local community working together to protect the city’s heritage.
 
“George Town is shining again. It has a better cityscape. It is greener and also more accessible,” said Chow, who has represented the George Town community since 1999 as Tanjung MP and Padang Kota assemblyman.
 
“The next challenges we face are managing traffic, increasing accessibility and providing people with better walkways.” 

(Article from The Malaysian Insight--7 July 2018)
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