Tourism boosters for Kuala Lumpur

Arts and culture events are expected to enliven the Istana Budaya stage once again. Seen here, dancers during the opening ceremony of the China-Malaysia Year of Culture and Tourism 2020. — Filepic

KUALA Lumpur’s tourism sector is about to get a kick-start, in line with the National Recovery Plan 2021.

Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri speaks to StarMetro about the ministry’s plans for the federal capital, aimed at getting these sectors running again.

They encompass various strategies such as rejuvenating heritage buildings, showcasing arts and cultural events, promoting midnight shopping, nightwalks and drive-in cinemas as well as boosting the spa industry.

Culture and arts

Nancy said plans were already in place to revitalise the segment by promoting arts and culture and rehabilitating old buildings.

“Heritage buildings and sites have notable historical value and cultural backstories.

“They have great potential to contribute to the socio-economic development of the country.

“Hence, we plan to establish strategic collaborations with the private sector to redevelop and preserve these historical places.

“I am sure the private sector is willing to take part in this exercise,” she said.

“Our national cultural policy on preservation and conservation of cultural heritage emphasises the importance of national heritage assets in terms of sustainability for the future generations in Malaysia.”

She said among the efforts outlined were the identification and development of heritage buildings and sites in Kuala Lumpur as hubs of arts and culture, which doubled as tourist attractions.

“Motac (Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry) also intends to establish a national ‘Cultural Ville’, a one-stop centre that enriches the local arts and culture ecosystem.

“This venue will host a wide spectrum of local cultural activities, ranging from traditional to modern arts,’’ she said.

On heritage buildings, Nancy elaborated on a few that were in particular focus. Carcosa Seri Negara

Just like the Jalan Raja heritage buildings, another iconic landmark that the government has plans for is Carcosa Seri Negara, which is currently in a very sorry state.

“As announced in Budget 2021, the government has allocated RM10mil for conserving and preserving buildings and heritage sites such as Carcosa and the Sultan Abdul Samad building.

“Motac together with its agency, the National Heritage Department (NHD), have appointed qualified consultants.

“The preparation of a Conservation Management Plan (CMP) began in May.

“With that, maintenance and repair work for both buildings are expected to start in 2022,” she said.

She added that the CMP itself would continue to be the primary source of reference for the purpose of preserving and conserving the buildings.

The CMP has been given an allocation of RM500,000.

Carcosa and Seri Negara are two colonial-era mansions.

Carcosa was built in 1896 and was the official residence of the first Federated Malay States Resident-General, Sir Frank Swettenham.

Seri Negara was built in 1913 as a guest house for royalty and other dignitaries.

Carcosa Seri Negara was gazetted as a National Heritage site under the National Heritage Act 2005.

Meanwhile, Motac has also managed to secure aid for its heritage fund called Tabung Kumpulan Wang Warisan for conservation efforts.

“Every year, Motac requests sufficient allocation from Finance Ministry for the heritage fund to ensure the conservation work at the historical sites can be carried out.

“We received an allocation of RM5mil in April,” said Nancy.

Parks and museums

According to the minister, plans are under way to create more attractive products not only for foreign tourists but also for Malaysians to enjoy.

“We are identifying interesting historical sites that we can turn into interactive and appealing experiences.

“For instance, the Kuala Lumpur Royal Malaysian Police Museum.

“We want to take visitors on an interactive journey that goes back to the days of British Malaya, through audio narratives or even a hologram show.

“We also want to promote our botanical gardens by creating spaces within them for corporate events and small functions.

“Recreational spaces such as the Butterfly Park and the Tun Razak Heritage Park are suitable locations to host small functions in a garden environment,” Nancy highlighted.

These sites would be promoted as venues for photoshoots too, she added.

The ministry is also working with travel agencies, hotels and tour bus companies such as the KL Hop On Hop Off tour bus to promote tourism by offering vouchers, rebates and attractive packages on products and services.

Spa and wellness

“The government understands the concerns of a wide range of industries affected by the Covid-19 outbreak and will uphold our pledge to leave no one behind, including the spa and wellness industry,” said Nancy.

“We have implemented various initiatives to provide ongoing support to operators and workers in this sector.

“The spa and wellness industry employs some 33,000 people (including foreign workers) and the Prime Minister (Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin) has just announced the Assistance Package for each of the phases under the NRP.”

She said that to date, the expansion of the Geran Khas Prihatin for spa and massage operators was RM1,000 to assist them through these trying times.

“An additional RM500 will be disbursed to eligible recipients in the middle of July.”

Nancy said the government, through her ministry, had also provided assistance to foot massage centres, as well as an allocation of RM300,000 under the Economic Stimulus Package 1.0 for the Safe2Spa “Jom Spa” programme.

“This programme will be implemented until December and is one of Motac’s initiatives to help boost the industry by encouraging people from all demographics to use spa and wellness services once they reopen.

“We expect the Safe2Spa campaign will generate revenue for members.

“The ministry, through the National Spa Council meeting, will reinforce plans and formulate strategies to help the industry recover.

“Our studies show more foreign customers visited the Motac-registered spas when they were in operation before the pandemic. This is because the majority of the spas endorsed by Motac are located in resorts and hotels.

“But we also noticed that there was an increase in locals seeking spa services when spas were allowed to operate briefly when the movement restrictions were eased previously,” she disclosed.Nightlife and entertainment

Although all activities related to culture and art are currently suspended, Nancy said it was only a matter of time — once the pandemic situation was under control — that entertainment and nightlife would again become one of the main highlights for tourists, especially in Kuala Lumpur.

“As a matter of fact, Istana Budaya, the main venue for all forms of theatre, including musicals, concerts and operetta, both local and international, is ready.

“In March, it launched its list of programmes for the year,” she said.

“For starters, half-priced tickets can be offered to encourage more visitors, especially newcomers who have never experienced theatre or art galleries. Of course, this has to be paired with promotions, both online and offline.

“Once we have reached herd immunity, we can also look at small-scale concerts, starting with attendees who are fully vaccinated with ‘vaccine passports’ on hand.

“This has already been done in several countries that have reached herd immunity,” she added.

More plans

The ministry is also working on other projects, such as providing a permanent space for a unique drive-in cinema experience.

According to Nancy, drive-in cinemas saw success in 2020 during the recovery movement control order, where Malaysians could enjoy their night out from the safety of their cars.

The M-Junction Drive-In Cinema and Sini-Drive Ipoh are among the drive-ins that offer visitors the opportunity to catch old and new movies. They offer the complete movie experience, popcorn and all.

Promoting nightlife in nature is another example.

Resort Taman Rimba Komanwel in Rawang, Selangor, is a perfect outing for families and friends where everyone can spend the night under the stars, revelling in a glamping adventure.

Kampung Kemensah, close to Zoo Negara, offers various activities (other than camping) such as ATV rides and picnic lunches by the stream.

“Ecotourism and outdoor activities may be a potential tourist preference after a pandemic, as many would love to return to nature,” said Nancy.

“We also plan to launch midnight or 24-hour shopping, like the Mustafa Centre in Singapore.

“And allowing buskers to perform in open areas or public parks to enliven the night scene also boosts our economy, while the people get to enjoy the outdoor ambience.”

The minister further said that Motac had collaborated with Federal Territories Ministry to identify, upgrade and beautify strategic tourism spots in Kuala Lumpur.

“We have seen how beautiful the Masjid Jamek area has become after the River of Life project.

“Similarly, the pedestrian flyover Saloma Link has become an attraction in itself, especially at night, and we will leverage on these landmarks,” Nancy added.

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