Terengganu Mentri Besar Datuk Ahmad Said said the state government would no longer approve the construction of chalet-type accommodation on the renowned island, which is much visited by the diving community.
“Only hotels rated five-star and above will be allowed to be built,” he said when met after the state assembly sitting here yesterday.
In future, only wealthy individuals would be able to afford holidays in Pulau Redang as hotel rooms will cost no less than US$500 (RM1,599) a night, Ahmad said.
He that said with the decision to turn the island into a high-end holiday destination, current chalets catering for backpackers would have to upgrade and raise their rates.
Asked if the move would draw criticism from non-governmental organisations, Ahmad said it was the only way to save the surrounding rich marine life and prevent environmental destruction due to pollution and indiscriminate littering.
“Some of the budget accommodation places on the island have no proper sewage system and waste is directed to the sea, and this destroys the corals,” he said.
Apart from that, Pulau Redang is a jewel for Terengganu and the 10th most beautiful island in the world, Ahmad said.
“Efforts must be made to save the island from deteriorating environmentally. Those on budget excursions can visit other islands like Pulau Kapas and Pulau Perhentian that are equally charming.”
Pulau Redang, a popular holiday destination for locals as well as foreigners, attracts about 100,000 visitors annually including many who flock there to visit the marine park.
Terengganu Tourist Association deputy president Alex Lee lauded the move, saying that it was time for Malaysia to create its own niche market.
“Redang has only one five-star hotel and others are mostly budget accomodations,” he said.
He believed the move by Ahmad was initiated out of concern for the environment as damage to the corals had been extensive.
The owner of an eight-room hotel in Redang, however, was worried that his livelihood would be affected if Pulau Redang became an exclusive holiday destination.
He said the move would affect many holidaymakers, both local and foreign, who would not be able to afford to stay in Pulau Redang if the state government went ahead with the niche market proposal.
“I hope the state government will meet budget hotel and chalet operators in Redang to get our views and include us in the planning,” said the man, who wanted to be known only as Dina,
He also said the state government should ensure there was proper drainage and sewage on the island for better waste disposal.
Another chalet operator, Nik Kamal Nik Husin, 43, said the move would only burden the villagers on the island as many were renting out rooms to budget travellers.
He also said only a handful of irresponsible chalet operators were directing the waste into the sea.The state government, he said, should build a centralised sewage treatment to deal with the waste disposal problem.