Melaka’s Luasempit set to be the next Chatuchak

An artist’s impression of the Malaysia Tourism City in Kuala Linggi, Melaka.

MERIDIAN Bhd, the developer of the Malaysia Tourism City (MTC) in Kuala Linggi, Melaka, intends to turn the tourism city into a shopping haven with the launch of its Luasempit Weekend Market@Linggi (Luasempit) in September next year.

Chief executive officer Datuk Seth Yap says the MTC, launched by Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Mohamaddin Ketapi in May, will host Malaysia’s own version of the Chatuchak weekend market, which is a popular shopping area in Bangkok, Thailand.

“Luasempit will be Internet-of-things-ready and be the biggest in the world, occupying 100 acres,” he tells StarBizWeek.

Yap says the aspiration of MTC is to increase the arrival of tourists and prolong their overnight stay.

“In 2018, the average number of tourist arrivals in Malaysia was 28 million, and 15 million went Melaka with an average of 1.5 million staying overnight in the historical city.

“With the MTC, we target to increase another two million tourist arrivals and an additional 1.5 million overnight stay tourists in Melaka thereby creating a multiplier effect on tourist receipts up to an additional RM5bil per annum.” To make MTC a success, Yap says there is a need to “create an economy” within the development and Luasempit is the answer to the tourism city’s sustainability.

Luasempit is part of the first phase of MTC’s 622.13 acre development and will be based on four pillars: mass tourism, medical tourism, edu tourism and eco tourism. The project is planned to be developed over three phases, with the first phase planned for completion within the next three years.

“With Luasempit, we will be offering 3,000 stores of about 100 sq ft per outlet. Rental for each outlets starts from RM2,500 a month,” says Yap.

“For that amount, you get a physical store with a footfall of two million tourists a year and access to our omni channel of up to 20 online shopping platforms in the region from countries such as Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam and the Philippines, with back-end fulfilment provided.

He adds that take-up for the outlets has been encouraging.

“Of course, we are not looking to get 3,000 tenants. Some will take more than one outlet. Right now, we have up 40% registered for interest.” Pulling in the crowd Main market-listed Meridian is working with low-cost carrier AirAsia, the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) and Traveloka, an Indonesian unicorn company, to ensure high tourist footfalls into MTC/Luasempit is achieved.

AirAsia BIG chief executive officer and chief operating officer Spencer Lee says has committed to bring in two million visitors to MTC.

“The MTC will be a new shopping haven for Malaysians and tourists who are on the lookout for great deals. With our extensive route network and large passenger base, we’re committed to working together with Meridianto bring in two million visitors to MTC and contribute to the social and economic growth of Melaka.” He adds that BIG members will soon be able to earn and pay with BIG points for bookings and retail purchases at MTC.

“This is part of our initiative and commitment towards extending the use of BIG points outside of the AirAsia ecosystem, giving BIG members more freedom to choose how they use their BIG points. With this partnership we’re one step closer to realising our vision of making BIG points a digital currency for everyone.” Meanwhile, Matta president Datuk Tan Kok Liang says the association has committed to bring in tourists to MTC for Visit Malaysia Year 2020.

“MTC will be a great inclusion to the myriad of holiday destinations that Malaysia has to offer.

“It will be the latest attraction to be added to the nation’s places of interest and definitely a magnet for travellers as we strive to achieve the 30 million tourist arrivals target for Visit Malaysia 2020. MTC is set to elevate Malaysia’s tourism offerings and boost Melaka tourism.” MTC is also be tying up with Traveloka to organised 14 regional events at MTC in a year.

According to a report by The Star in June, Melaka recorded 4.79 million tourist arrivals in the first three months of this year compared with 4.07 million during the same period last year.

Citing Melaka Chief Minister Adly Zahari, the report said the increase of 17.49% was very encouraging to Melaka, which is targeting 20 million tourists this year in conjunction with Visit Melaka Year 2019.

“The five top countries with the most number of tourists visiting Melaka are China with 46.2%, Singapore (17.31%), Indonesia (8.34%), Taiwan (4.6%) and Hong Kong with 3.05%,” he was quoted as saying in the report.

Adly noted that domestic tourists remained the biggest contributors, with 3.4 million compared with 1.38 million foreign tourists.

People from Selangor, he said, made up the largest number of domestic tourists with 13.11% of total visitors to Melaka.

Adly urged stakeholders to join hands to further boost the tourism industry.

“Melaka will continue to promote tourism with focus on 13 sub-sectors including history, culture, sports, health, agro-tourism as well as eco-tourism,” he said.

He also urged homestay operators throughout the state to register with the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry to enhance safety.

“There are houses, apartments, bungalows and other residences in the state which have been converted into homestays by their owners but were not registered with the ministry. This makes it difficult for the authorities to supervise, and poor quality of service will jeopardise the state’s tourism industry,” he said.

People behind the management Being the master developer of MTC, Yap says Meridian recognises the need to tap experienced talents to execute and operate Luasempit successfully.

“The Chatuchak weekend market is a highly popular shopping centre in Thailand and attracts over 200,000 visitors per day. To ensure the success of Luasempit, Poompichai Tarndamron, who sits on the advisory board of Chatuchak, was made the adviser to Luasempit,” says Yap.

Noteworthy is that Meridian has also appointed the highly respected former Tourism, Arts and Culture Malaysia Ministry secretary-general Datuk Rashidi Hasbullah as the company’s director effective Sept 3. Rashidi has been with the ministry for 23 years.

Last month, Meridian also appointed Ecofirst Consolidated Bhd group chief executive officer Datuk Tiong Kwing Hee.

Tiong made his name by turning around EcoFirst, a company with debts, into a first-tier developer with six years of consecutively profits.

Yap says the appointment of Rashidi and Tiong will be invaluable to the success of MTC.

Uniquely Luasempit Yap says the 100-acres Luasempit market is named as such because it has broad (luas) and narrow (sempit) alleys.

“The ‘luas’ alley will consist of 1,500 outlets focusing on food and beverage. There are seven luas alleys defined by seven rainbow colours. Each coloured alley consists of two different state foods. For instance, the red alley houses Melaka and Penang food, while the blue alley, Sabah and Sarawak food.” By putting together all 14 states food in the luas alley, Yap hopes that all the tourists to MTC will enjoy the food what makes Malaysia wonderful.

The “sempit” alley meanwhile will consist of another 1,500 outlets focusing on made-in-Malaysia arts and crafts.

Putting the consumer experience first, Yap says these alleys will be air-cooled, ensuring that temperature will not rise above 26 degrees.

“All the products sold will be carefully selected and no more than three outlets will be allowed to sell the same product,” he says.

Yap says Luasempit will be different from conventional weekend markets as it will have Instagrammable spots, both narrow and broad streets, festival event space, floating market, “Malaysia sakura” garden, a bee farm, bamboo island and bird park.

“Visitors can enjoy the calming and wonderful broadwalk or sing-along at the performing stage next to it.” The weekend market will feature top local bands at the designated event hall every week, Yap adds.

“Apart from the live concerts, events in the pipeline include My Little Pony Run, hot air balloon shows and Transformers shows.” To boost the shopping experience of its customers, Yap says the weekend market is working with IPay88offline merchants to offer cashless payments as well as delivery options.

“Hefty overweight surcharges will also be a thing of the past. Shop without a care and have all your goods from Luasempit shipped to your home.” For vendors, the weekend market will offer the option of omni-channel commerce, he says.

“Any inventory listed at the stall will be automatically linked and populated in our e-commerce store, which will be open up the Asean export market for our vendor.

“Our market curators will also assist in sourcing, planning and delivering the stocks and inventory should you need to give your stall an edge,” says Yap.

He says the merchants and traders at MTC will also be able to enjoy premium facilities and amenities.

“We will provide storage services to the traders. If they bring in goods for their outlets, we can help store them at our warehouse.” Building entrepreneurs On why Meridian plans to set up a weekend market and not something that’s available on a daily basis, Yap says this is to enable the merchants working at MTC to spend their week days building their businesses elsewhere.

“It’s part of our strategy to build Malaysian entrepreneurs. By having a market that operates only on the weekends, merchants and traders that choose to set up shop at Luasempit don’t have to quit their jobs if they have another source of income during the week days.

“Once their business revenue from our market and omni channel is stable, they can confidently focus their resources on building the business.” As for the MTC, Yap says another attraction that will be part of development is the world’s first Hasbro-themed water theme park.

Yap, via his private entity M101 Holdings Sdn Bhd, secured a licensing agreement with Hasbro in March 2018.

“We have budgeted about RM100mil for the park and will be capitalising on the Hasbro brand.” “The water park will be about 20 acres and will offer a wide range of branded new rides,” he says.

Based on reports, the theme park will feature licensed intellectual properties such as My Little Pony, Nerf and GI Joe scheduled to open in 2022.

Other popular games linked to Hasbro include Battleship, Play-Doh and Mr Potato Head.

Additionally, the first phase of the MTC will also include adventure park for action-buffs, says Yap.

“This will be more for individuals looking for outdoor and camping retreats or even boot-camp training type of activities.” Also set for launch in the MTC, within the first phase are 480 bungalows beside the Hasbro water park.

According to reports, the project will have a 8,000 sq ft bungalow and with built-up of 3,000 sq ft and will sell from RM800,000.

Yap says phases two and three will take around three years each to develop. In the pipeline for the remaining phases are a medical centre, eco-tourism park, aquarium, mall and entertainment centre, convention centre, moto tourism park and martial arts village.

“We want to champion tourism and boost revenue for the country,” he says.

Asked about the group’s plans going forward, Yap says it is focusing on efforts to turn the company into a recurring business model base on tourism, thereby creating a unique positioning for the company.

“With MTC, a mere 30% take-up rate would generate Meridian with a revenue stream of RM27mil yearly,” he says.

Revenue generator: An artist’s impression of the Malaysia Tourism City in Kuala Linggi. Luasempit is the answer to the tourism city’s sustainability.

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