EFFORTS to raise Kuala Lumpur from being merely a transit location to a quality tourist destination are under way.
Citing a study by Roland Berger Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur mayor Datuk Seri Ahmad Phesal Talib said tourists were only staying in Kuala Lumpur for 2.6 to three days, and suitable tourism packages should be arranged to encourage longer stays in the city.
“It is time for us to take advantage of our rich cultural diversity, because tourists do not just visit Kuala Lumpur to see the architecture. They need to see our living heritage,” he said during the launch of the “Jalan-Jalan @ Kampung Baru” guided walk.
“Kampung Baru is almost 115 years old and located in the heart of the city. It is important for us to explore the depths of its history and the significant events that have taken place in this prime location,” he said.
He added that Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) had created a KL Tourism Master Plan from 2014 to 2025 to bring in tourists for longer stays and it hoped to reach the target of 16 million tourists by 2025.
Kampung Baru’s illustrious history would be the root of the government’s efforts to promote one of the oldest Malay settlements in the capital city, explained the mayor.
“This year, we have provided a budget of RM200,000 for heritage houses in Kampung Baru which need help in refurbishment and upgrading, so that they can be open for tourists to visit,” Ahmad Phesal said, adding that the allocation was for anyone with a heritage house.
Kampung Baru, the third free guided walking tour funded by DBKL’s Tourism Unit, is part of the Kuala Lumpur tourism package that will be promoted extensively in London.
“DBKL has provided RM50,000 annually to promote this tour and to pay the tour guides.
“The feedback we received from the trial walks done with 45 tourists has been positive and if this continues, we may increase the frequency of the tour to five times a week,” Ahmad Phesal said.
He added that it was important for the Jalan-Jalan @ Kampung Baru guided tour to not only benefit the tourism industry but the Kampung Baru residents as well.
“I hope the residents will take advantage of this tourism product by creating specialised souvenirs at designated pit-stops, such as at Rumah Limas.
“This will be a good side income for them and it will also make the tour more memorable for tourists,” he said.
Led by qualified guides with in-depth knowledge of Kampung Baru history, tourists will visit 10 sites, which include a traditional Malay house built in 1921 known as Master Mat’s house, Kelab Sultan Suleiman Gallery which showcases the history of the Malay political struggle, and Gurdwara Tatt Khalsa built in 1922.
Gurdwara Tatt Khalsa vice-president Ranmit Singh Gill said he was proud to have the Sikh temple listed as one of the heritage sites on the walking tour.
“This feature shows the rich cultural diversity of Kampung Baru,” he said, adding that visitors were welcome to enjoy the free vegetarian lunch at the Gurdwara on Sundays.
During the two-and-a-half-hour guided walk, tourists will also have the opportunity to sample traditional delicacies such as bubor lambok, kuih-muih and the famous Nasi Lemak Antarabangsa at the Malay Food Street pitstop.
Jose Luis Carrasco, 23, a first-time visitor to Malaysia, was impressed with the walking tour.
“I have participated in the Dataran Merdeka Heritage Walk, which was very good, but this walk has food stops and shows a different side of Kuala Lumpur,” said the tourist from Spain.
Erin Brown, 25, a tourist from the US, said she learnt a lot about the traditional Malay culture of the residents in Kampung Baru through the guided walk.
“I have a better understanding of Malay cultural practices such as removing my shoes before entering a Malay house as a sign of respect,” she said, adding that she would recommend the tour to her friends.
Armed with a waistband amplifier, tour guide Jane Rai, who led the mayor’s entourage during the launch, said one of the greatest challenges in guiding a walking tour was the weather.
“We always advise tourists to bring along a raincoat and wear sunscreen.
“Each tour group is limited to 15 members with one tour guide to manage them effectively, especially when crossing roads and answering questions.
“All tour groups are given a comprehensive safety briefing before embarking on the tour, as safety is our top-most priority,” said the tourist guide of 25 years.
She added that there were currently six tour guides on duty for Jalan-Jalan@Kampung Baru.
Jalan-jalan@Kampung Baru guided walk is free for all and is conducted every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday from 4.30pm to 7pm.