‘Muslim destination’ facelift considered

Rebranding mulled: We aim to differentiate Langkawi from other destinations, said Khairul Firdaus.

KUALA LUMPUR: Pulau Langkawi, whose status as the “Jewel of Kedah” came under question in the past few months, has come under the spotlight again after the government says it will be positioned as a “preferred Muslim destination emphasising family-friendly and spiritual tourism”.

Announcing this in Parliament, Deputy Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Khairul Firdaus Akbar Khan said the move will be a way to enable Malaysia to be competitive with other countries by focusing on niche sectors.

He also said the move will help enhance Langkawi’s competitiveness among regional islands ahead of Visit Malaysia Year 2026.

“We recognise that Langkawi may face challenges in competing with other islands in the region, so the ministry’s strategy is to promote the unique attractions of different islands, ensuring each has its distinctive tourism characteristics,” he told the Dewan Rakyat here yesterday.

Khairul Firdaus, however, downplayed concerns about the duty-free resort island that had previously sparked disputes between his ministry boss, Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing, and Kedah Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor.

“The situation is very much under control and rather good. I urge that we do not highlight matters that are not truly serious in our country,” he said in response to Seputeh MP Teresa Kok’s question about whether tourists coming in shorts and drinking alcohol would undermine the ministry’s tourism promotion efforts.

Datuk Mohd Suhaimi Abdullah, the Langkawi MP under Perikatan Nasional, then raised concerns about the cleanliness of Langkawi’s waters, particularly around Bukit Malut.

“The problem in Langkawi now is that the sea is filthy. Those who go out to see the sunset will notice that the pollution is out of control.

“I urge the minister to focus on cleaning the sea. I am also unsure which ministry is responsible for this,” he said.

In response, Khairul Firdaus said that under the current Madani administration, “we have never neglected any state”.

“Our minister has directed us to elevate Langkawi to be one of the top islands in the country,” he said, adding that there is a volunteer programme under the ministry that can be activated to help clean the beaches.

Last year, Tiong spoke about non-Muslim tourists being harassed in Langkawi, a claim rejected by Muhammad Sanusi, who said that non-Muslim holidaymakers were allowed to wear shorts and drink alcohol there.

Media reports had also branded Langkawi a “ghost town” for its supposedly struggling tourism, with Tiong also complaining about high prices of hotels, food and taxi fares there.

The minister said it suffered a drop in foreign tourists but did not give any statistics on this.

When contacted later, Khairul Firdaus said he will furnish further details on the strategies for promoting Langkawi.

“We aim to differentiate Langkawi from other destinations,” he added.

However, he assured tourists planning to visit the island that there is “nothing to worry about”.

Earlier in Parliament, Khairul Firdaus also said that as of April, tourist arrivals in Malaysia had reached 7.56 million, compared with 5.93 million in the same period last year.

“This clearly shows that the strategies we have implemented are having a positive impact,” he said.

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