Perak is all fired up with a new campaign to woo international tourists and make tourism a major economic generator for the state.
For far too long, Perak has stood in the shadows of its more popular neighbours Penang and Langkawi, which attract foreign tourists by the hordes each year. But not any longer, as Perak is now making known its tourism ambitions with the year-long Visit Perak Year campaign launched on January 1, 2017.
Royal Belum National Park
Unlike the previous 2007 campaign that was mainly targeted at domestic tourists, the new Visit Perak Year campaign now trains its sights on the international markets. So far, Tourism Perak has participated in last year’s ITB Berlin and WTM London, joined travel consumer and trade fairs, organised B2B networking sessions, and hosted fam trips for overseas agents.
Acknowledging that tourism is still a nascent industry for the state, Perak State executive counsellor for tourism, arts, culture, communications and multimedia, Nolee Ashilin Mohammed Radzi, said: “The state started to look at (tourism) seriously as an income earner four to five years ago. It is currently the third biggest economic generator after agriculture and industry. By 2020, the state wants tourism to climb to second position.”
Currently, the state is promoting Royal Belum State Park, one of the world’s oldest rainforests, and the UNESCO-listed Lenggong Valley to international tourists. Other attractions include Pangkor Island, The Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat, Sungai Klah Hot Spring Park, Matang Mangrove Forest Reserve, Gua Tempurung and Kuala Kangsar.
Tourism Perak was initially banking on the opening of the Movie Animation Park Studio (MAPS) to draw more tourists from Asia, but the opening was delayed from early 2017 to June.
Nolee Ashilin said: “We had been promoting the theme park to Asian markets as a family attraction. The delay is expected to affect arrivals from neighbouring Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand. These markets enjoy theme parks and will do short weekend visits.”
Ganneesh Ramaa, manager, Luxury Tours Malaysia, is hopeful that the “additional promotions by the state government will help Perak gain more exposure with international markets”, as foreign agents and tourists are more familiar with Malacca, Penang, Langkawi, Kuching, Kota Kinabalu and Kuala Lumpur.
Greater international promotion of Perak’s offerings will make it easier for inbound agents to sell longer stays in the state, pointed out Kingston Khoo, senior product development, contracting manager at Discovery Overland Holidays, who used to sell Perak as a day tour en route from Kuala Lumpur to Penang for the European markets.
He added: “Now, we sell the state as a one-night offering with cultural and nature tours that appeal to Europeans. We take them to see pottery making in Kuala Kangsar, whitewater rafting in Gopeng, see the Rafflesia flower and Rajah Brooke butterfly in Ulu Geroh, and visit both the restored heritage buildings in Concubine Lane and the Kuala Kangsar royal town.”
But more could still be done by the state, said Khoo, such as providing better infrastructure and interpretive information at Lenggong Valley to attract history buffs, as well as more accommodation choices at Royal Belum State Park besides the 106-key Belum Rainforest Resort.
Perak has its own airport in Ipoh, but Singapore is the only foreign destination it has air connections to as the short runway makes it difficult to land aircraft larger than the Airbus A320.
While Ganneesh does not think the lack of direct international flights is a limiting factor, with Perak located a two-hour drive from the air hubs of Kuala Lumpur or Penang, Belum Rainforest Resort’s director of sales Yani Sapawi thinks otherwise even though the resort is usually booked out during the peak periods that coincide with Malaysia’s school holidays and the European summer holidays.
She said: “Our offerings will appeal to Singapore FITs but it is difficult to tap the market due to the lack of public bus services (from Penang, Ipoh and Kuala Kangsar); Singaporeans are unwilling to self-drive. Nevertheless, we have not given up on this market and we are planning a fam trip for travel agents from Singapore in 2Q2017.”
This article was first published in TTG Asia April 2017 issue. To read more, please view our digital edition or click here to subscribe.