EVERY Saturday night, Bentong town comes alive – thanks to a well-planned effort to bring tourists to this more than a century-old town, located just about 80km from Kuala Lumpur.
The town’s Bentong Walk at Jalan Chui Yin has caught the attention of tourists, both domestic and foreign, who want to look for a unique experience away from the city.
It started as a plan to give the youths in Bentong a chance to start their own venture, allowing people working outside of Bentong to come back to their home town to help its economy but it is now being touted as a model of proper planning.
Thanks to proper promotion, Bentong Walk is now lauded for its combination of arts, culture and food which is bringing economic benefits to this Pahang town.
The ecotourism plan is part of the MCA’s 10 Economic Strategic Directions (MCA10ESD), which seeks to improve the lives of the people.
The MCA10ESD, spearheaded by party president Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai since a year ago, is on the right track.
“Bentong is ideally located as it is not far from the capital and, at the same time, offers scenic tourist spots including waterfalls and hot springs,” said Liow, adding that ecotourism and cultural tourism have been identified as one way to bring development to the small towns and rural areas.
Liow is also MP for Bentong.
In the case of new villages which lack economic opportunities, he points out that tourism will translate into business and job opportunities for the villagers, particularly the youths.
The programme, which provides a sense of belonging to the local folk is also a unifying factor, the MCA president says.
“I am hoping and confident that economic development can attract the youth to return and settle down in Bentong.”
Cultural tourism, he says, will be introduced to other places, especially to the new villages, in stages.
There are 607 new villages and fishing villages in the country with a lot of untapped potential.
Another success story is Machap Walk in Machap New Village in Alor Gajah, about 30km from the Malacca city centre.
Some 100,000 people – local and foreign tourists – visited Machap Walk in November and December last year, shortly after its opening.
Liow says modern agriculture is also an important component under the MCA10ESD. It is aimed at getting more youth to take up agro farming. He says the programme has identified 500 acres of potential land to be rented to farmers so far.
The MCA1OESD will facilitate the entry of farmers with the help of the Young Farmers Cooperative, which was set up for the purpose earlier this year.
With Mobile Food Truck being an increasingly popular business model, Liow says the MCA10ESD, via the party’s Hawkers and Micro Business Cooperative, acts as a one-stop centre to assist young people who are interested in the business. The cooperative also provides help to those who are keen in e-commerce.
The many festive seasons in Malaysia also provide business opportunities. The party is coming up with the New Year Shopping Festival to promote exotic local products from new villages.
Liow says this is a business opportunity for local micro enterprises, adding that women in particular have the talent in coming up with festive goodies.
The several milestones over the last one year marked a good beginning, and participants will meet at Wisma MCA this Saturday for the second MCA10ESD conference.
Most of all, Liow points out the importance of equipping and helping the people, especially the youth, to become more resilient economically due to the economic challenges at home and abroad.
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