Many not keen on proposed niche focus for Langkawi

PETALING JAYA: Langkawi has established itself as a popular beach destination for international tourists and any move by the government to rebrand the island could be counterproductive, say industry players.

They also questioned the need to market Langkawi as a “preferred Muslim tourism destination” – as stated in Dewan Rakyat earlier yesterday – given that Malaysia is already one.

Malaysian Tourism Federation president Datuk Tan Kok Liang cautioned against the proposal, saying that Langkawi has been successfully promoted to the European, Indian and Chinese markets over the past 30 years.

“Why rock the boat or reinvent the wheel unless the island tourism players are in dire need of more tourists in expansion plans?

“Would this marketing thrust be counterproductive?” he said.

However, Tan said it will not be challenging to turn Langkawi into a preferred Muslim tourism draw as there are already amenities for the purpose.

“Its existing Islamic heritage, halal food menus and Muslim-friendly amenities align well with marketing promotions,” he said, adding that Malaysia has yet to tap the full potential of the immense Muslim travel market.

Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) president Nigel Wong said Langkawi is a magnet for those seeking sun, beach and ecotourism holidays, adding that these attributes are already well publicised.

He feels that rebranding Langkawi as a preferred Muslim destination would change the dynamics of how the island is seen and promoted.

“Langkawi already appeals to a big domestic market, which is predominantly Muslim.

“It is also seen as an equivalent or competition to destinations like Phuket and Bali, and what we really need is to highlight the plus points Langkawi has,” he said.

“The whole of Malaysia is already a Muslim-friendly destination. We should keep to that as it’s more than sufficient to draw tourists in,” Wong said.

A local tour operator in Langkawi, known as Faisal, said making a market too niche has its risks.

“Langkawi offers many attractions that are Muslim-friendly and which also appeal to non-Muslims.

“Almost all activities can be enjoyed by both sides. Let’s not decide for them.

“The entire island is ready to offer many things to tourism. What’s missing is promotion,” he added.

Reacting to the government’s new strategy for Langkawi, former minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim pointed out that there are already existing Muslim tourism destinations in the region such as Kuala Terengganu in Terengganu and Kota Baru in Kelantan, Indonesia’s Medan, Jakarta and Surabaya, Thailand’s Hatyai, Saudi Arabia’s Riyadh and the United Arab Emirates’ Dubai.

“The minister must ask what Muslims like to do in Langkawi that they can’t do in more well-known places,” he posted on X yesterday.

Langkawi, said Zaid, could be made a shopping heaven for Muslims, but noted that this move might not align with the government as it entails additional costs.

“It looks like Langkawi will deteriorate slowly but surely, as the curse of Mahsuri still holds strong,” said Zaid, in reference to the woman who, according to legend, cursed the island for seven generations after being unfairly executed for alleged adultery.

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