AS MALAYSIA enters an era of transformation in line with the New Economic Model (NEM), the time is now ripe for some sectors like tourism to go more into niche tourism products and services.
Take your report, “Love is in the air for newlyweds,” (Sunday Star, April 18) as a lead, we are now beginning to go for various modes and means to fulfil the lifestyle needs of our tourists.
We have heard a lot about people who are willing to fly to the romantic island of Bali just to have a wedding “made-in-heaven”. But what is so great about Bali that we don’t have on our many paradise islands of Langkawi, Penang, Redang, Tioman, Pangkor Laut, Mabul, etc?
To sum it up, I can simply say that the two winning points of Bali are the culture and arts scene. The whole island has an air of festivity day in and day out. Ours on the other hand, is a seasonal affair while some are just put together for the benefit of tourists. Bali also has all the trappings in terms of niche tourism products and services, which we sorely lack.
Talking about weddings in Bali, tour operators walk the extra mile by providing things like air tours in which one can arrive in style, or a lovers’ tour of the island and beyond.
Surely, we are not short of all these trappings and the icing-on-the cake stuff. Our tour operators should be more creative and come up with itineraries that can attract this particular segment of people.
For example, we can offer a helicopter ride for a bridal shoot to nearby Fraser’s Hill, our Little England, or to Bukit Tinggi, our “Petit France”, or to honeymoon retreats like Pangkor Laut and Langkawi, just to name a few.
We can save a lot in foreign exchange if Malaysians holiday at home instead of going to places like Bali, Bandung, Koh Samui, Ho Chi Minh City or Hong Kong like these places were their second home.
According to Tourism Malaysia, our tourist arrival figures have already surpassed the 20 million targeted mark. But then what is the quality of these visitors? Are they mere sightseeing tourists on packaged holidays or are they long-stayers with money to burn?
I suppose we must not be contented with the multiplying numbers achieved every year. If we want to raise our standard of living, we should also explore the top-notch tourist market.
I have just come back from an anniversary holiday in Lombok, Indonesia. With our strong ringgit, we were able to stay in a five-star hotel there. On the whole, Lombok is poor in terms of income and infrastructure but they are simply rich in tourism products.
By comparison, we were there for only four days and three nights while a middle-aged British couple whom we met were able to stay there for almost 20 days. Imagine, they were spending the pounds by the thousands to the benefit of the local community.
These are the visitors we should pursue. Tourism Malaysia and the local players should take the cue and lead the way in ensuring that in-bound visitors are not just day-trippers but are in the real sense of the word tourists with much disposable income to part with.