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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Enhancing Langkawi's appeal

The proposed rejuvenation of Langkawi, via a five-year tourism blueprint, is set to see the potential entry of fresh investments that will make the resort island more appealing to higher-end tourists.

The Langkawi Tourism Blueprint envisages RM5 billion worth of investment in tourism projects and aims to increase tourism arrivals from the current 2.4 million to three million by 2015. That would more than double its contribution to the country's economy from RM800 million to RM1.9 billion, as well as create 4,200 new jobs.

The government's financial commitment to the blueprint includes RM420 million to build infrastructure, acquire some land and promote the island so that tourists no longer give it a miss in favour of destinations like Bali, Phuket and the Maldives.

"The blueprint serves as an impetus and provides a focused approach on specific areas of development such as product development, key infrastructure and supporting enablers.

"This in turn provides existing and new investors a clear vision and direction set forth for Langkawi," says Northern Corridor Implementation Authority (NCIA) chief executive Datuk Redza Razif.

The role played by the NCIA in helping uplift Langkawi's position is to play a lead role in the development of the blueprint, along with the delivery of its current initiatives on the island.

The authority is tasked to lead three out of 14 initiatives which have been outlined in the blueprint. They include plans for luxury stays and a vibrant north-west for the island, ensuring better connectivity and seeing to the setting up of a tourism academy by working closely with the Ministry of Higher Education and the Performance and Delivery Unit (Pemandu) in the Prime Minister's Department.

Khazanah Nasional Bhd had announced in December that it will be ploughing capital investments of some RM1 billion in Teluk Datai via Teluk Datai Resorts Sdn Bhd, its investee company.

This move is expected to be achieved via the implementation of a Teluk Datai master development plan which in turn will see reinvestments in the existing hotels at Teluk Datai, along with investments in select pieces of earmarked land which total around 604ha.

Projects include the enhancement of The Datai Langkawi, upgrading The Golf Club, Datai Bay, and optimising land for beachfront development.

Khazanah, via Teluk Datai Resorts, has also entered into a heads of agreement with Shangri-La Hotels (M) Bhd to jointly develop a five-star resort.

The proposed resort has been reported to be managed by Shangri-la International Hotel Management Ltd under the Shangri-La brand and will serve as Shangri-La debut on Langkawi.

Tradewinds Corp Bhd is said to be bringing more rejuvenation to Langkawi, via development of the Telaga Harbour Park at Pantai Kok and building new residential and commercial properties.

The company, which reportedly now owns the three-star Mutiara Burau Bay Resort, is believed to have plans to tear down the existing resort and rebuild it into a higher end accommodation offering.

The existing resort, which is currently in need of a major facelift, is dotted with sea-fronting chalets and appears to be "tired" and does nothing currently in terms of infrastructure and amenities for its guests.

Just up the road is the Oriental Village, which was opened by the Langkawi Development Authority (LADA) in 2003 and is poorly managed.

Originally envisioned to be a cluster of factory outlets stories, it is today nothing but a mix of crafts shops and buskers and serves as the occasional backdrop for television and movie producers.

Its close proximity to the island's top attraction - Panorama Langkawi cable car services - does not help the image of the cable car operator which offers rides to the peak of the 700 metro Matchingchang mountain range.

Although Panorama Langkawi Sdn Bhd, a profit making subsidiary of Syarikat Prasarana Negara Sdn Bhd, has over the past year done wonders to improve its image for its services, visitors are not accorded a positive first impression, owing to the conditions of the Oriental Village, which is in drastic need of a revamp.

While details of a supposed revamp of LADA are not publicly known, Langkawi locals and tourism players are now placing their hopes on the authority's newly-appointed chief executive officer Tan Sri Khalid Ramli, who previously served as chairman of the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission.

A delivery management office (DMO), for which LADA will serve as lead agency, is set to be established in overseeing the blueprint.

"With a targeted approach taken by the blueprint, timely implementation, sound business plans and on-ground support by all sectors, we are confident that Langkawi will emerge as a premier island destination," noted Redza.

He added that the Langkawi Tourism Blueprint defines specific initiatives and complements the Northern Corridor Economic Region's overall blueprint which is to see the economic fortunes of the four northern states of Perak, Penang, Kedah and Perlis improve.

On the proposed development of Teluk Datai, Redza said that the opportunity for NCIA in this effort will be to assist in scaling up local entrepreneurs to provide complementing services in the vicinity of the new resort.

"This would include the development of souvenirs, availability of well-trained private tour guides and the provision of authentic dining experiences which reflect among others, local culture," he added.

On whether it was too ambitious a plan to expect the blueprint to yield its targeted results at the end of 2015 when the document was only launched at the end of 2011, Redza said: "During the development of the blueprint, some groundwork and key issues were identified and as a result, quick-win initiatives were targeted and already rolled in late 2011 and part of this year".

By Business Times

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