ABOUT seven minutes away from the National Automobile Museum in Selangor is a development scheme called Kampung Labu Lanjut.
A man by the name of Hashim Pardi, better known to villagers as Hashim Bom, used to live here.
The story behind Hashim’s moniker is one that Kampung Labu Lanjut village chief Damarulan Hassim never tires of telling.
Story has it that the pioneer settler (Hashim) found a bomb shell in 1976. It was believed to be a remnant left behind by Japanese forces during World War 2.
“He was carrying it home when one of the other settlers spotted what was in his hands and stopped him.
The police were called and the bomb was detonated. Relieved that the explosive did not blow up in Hashim’s hands, villagers named him thus and for a while, after being featured in the news, he became a local celebrity.
Hashim passed away in 2017.
As promotional efforts for Visit Sepang Year 2020 (VSY2020) intensify, more stories like the above from the area begin to surface.
The town, which only claim to fame previously was an international airport and a motorsport race track, is now known for being home to a site where evidence of the earliest Neolithic megalith structure was discovered.
Proof that early human settlement existed in Kampung Jenderam Hilir in Dengkil 4,500 years ago is found in 19 artefacts, all verified by carbon dating. They are displayed at the Sultan Alam Shah Museum in Shah Alam.
Among some of the creative ways Sepang Municipal Council (MPSepang) has promoted Sepang include a 50-strong superbike convoy travelling 1,000km across nine local municipalities and a team climbing Mount Kinabalu to fly the VSY2020 flag.
MPSepang president Mohd Fauzi Mohd Yatim had even gone to the Internationale Tourismus-Borse in Berlin, Germany and the China-Asean Expo in Nanning, China to promote Sepang.
The local council has spent RM500,000 so far, covering promotional efforts overseas, briefings done with tour operators in Sepang and implementation of tourism programmes such as cultural festivals and the annual Bagan Lalang Beach Festival.
If we were to go by MPSepang’s figures, increase in tourist numbers since the launch of promotional events in January has been encouraging.
According to MPSepang Corporate Unit and Public Relations director Norrehan Amat Kasman, the council’s statistics reports showed a 39% increase in visitors for the period of January to June compared to 2018.
So far, feedback from service and accommodation providers in Bagan Lalang, where river cruises, sport fishing and beach activities are marketed as attractions, have reported a 30% increase in business revenue during peak seasons like school term breaks and public holidays.
However, visitor influx remains seasonal.
One Airbnb operator Ahmad Luqman told me that his occupancy rate on weekdays could be lower than 10%.
Saiful Jaafar, who runs a sport fishing outfit, said it was not enough for businesses to rely on promotions by the government.
Therefore, he and his team would carry out their own marketing efforts too.
The main tourist market for now is largely made up of domestic travellers, said MPSepang councillor Hazimun Rahman Mohammad.
But of late, he has noticed a trend involving Chinese tourists who would book accommodation in Kota Warisan but head to Kuala Lumpur to sightsee, shop, eat and spend.
“This is a sign that we are not doing enough to promote and develop our own tourist spots, ” Hazimun noted.
He is not wrong. There are many places in Sepang that have not been highlighted yet and pushed.
For instance, Bukit Berot near Kampung Jenderam Hulu for nature hikes and the spot KL International Airport to view aeroplanes landing.
With a little more than two months to 2020, MPSepang is stepping up promotions for its tourism programmes by expanding to print and electronic media.
There is a Visit Sepang mobile app and a festival to promote dragon fruits, which are to Sepang what durians are to Raub. There is even a cute monkey named “Atan” as the VSY2020 mascot.
And the council will soon be launching a calendar of events as well as tourism packages.
Norrehan said all applications for programmes taking place in Sepang were also required to support the VSY2020 campaign via display of the VSY2020 logo and public announcements.
MPSepang’s determination is clear and present.
But have they done enough and will the last-minute drive be able to help them achieve their target of five million tourists and the estimated income of RM5bil? We shall find out in 12 months’ time.