KUALA LUMPUR: Tourism Malaysia will persist with its efforts to promote Langkawi but the Kedah government should collaborate with the Federal Government on this, says Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing.
The Tourism, Arts, and Culture Minister urged the state government to establish clear tourism policies, emphasising the importance of developing a strategy to restore tourists’ confidence in Langkawi.
“Tourism Malaysia has been actively promoting Langkawi. It has not stopped putting in efforts to do so. But if the state government’s policy remains uncertain and consistently associates religion with the tourism industry, then people may be discouraged from visiting Langkawi,” he told The Star.
Yesterday, The Star reported that the “Jewel of Kedah” had been seeing fewer visitors, especially since September.
Citing statistics from a Langkawi Development Authority (Lada) source, the report said there was about a 20% month-on-month drop since September compared to the previous year.
Industry players and other observers were of the view that the decline in numbers was partly caused by negative online posts about pricey food in Langkawi. There had also been concerns that Langkawi might have restrictions on beach attire.
However, Kedah Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor has dismissed reports that non-Muslims were being stopped from buying alcohol and wearing shorts in Langkawi as baseless.
But Tiong reiterated yesterday his claim that some foreign tourists in Langkawi had complained to the ministry about restrictions on wearing shorts, consuming alcohol and other complaints about high food prices on the island.
He said that Muhammad Sanusi should uphold the rights and freedoms of others, adding that the situation should not become a personal political and religious platform.
Foreign tourists, Tiong said, had been reluctant to visit Langkawi as they had expressed concerns about any regulations by the state government.
Some media reports also posed the question of whether the island was turning into a “ghost town”.
Malaysia Budget & Business Hotel Association (MyBHA) president Dr Sri Ganesh Michiel suggested improving Langkawi’s ferry services, besides introducing direct flights from Bali to Langkawi and implementing visa-on-arrival for tourists from more countries.
“We hope that the Kedah state government will assist in promoting Langkawi tourism without involving religion,” he said when contacted.
Malaysian Association of Hotels vice-president Lim Choong Sean acknowledged the “challenges” faced by Langkawi’s hotel occupancy, stating that it was not ideal.