ASSEMBLYMAN Tony Leong Tuck Chee is planning a dedicated Heritage Trail in Pandamaran, which started as a Chinese New Village in 1951 and has grown into a multiracial town located between Port Klang and Klang, Selangor. (“Heritage trail for Pandamaran”, StarMetro, June 5; available online at tinyurl.com/star-heritage.)
He believes a tourist trail would provide visitors with a good experience, and the assistance of the Klang Municipal Council’s Tourism Unit, Selangor State Tourism Department, Tourism and Culture Ministry as well as local stakeholders will be enlisted to ensure its success.
I grew up in Pandamaran and I spent the last 45 years working in the travel industry. Therefore, I am happy to share my two sen worth on how to attract visitors, offer experiential tourism, and give the local economy a boost.
The traditional way of marketing destinations by first identifying tourist attractions, erecting information boards at various sites and printing brochures and maps is time consuming, expensive and ineffective.
My formula for promoting any destination, be it a village, town, city or district, is to develop a destination app and build a tourist centre where only local foods, fruits and produce are sold.
The app would provide all the interesting and useful information normally sought by tourists, and once ready will put the destination on the world map, as it can be accessed globally. On the other hand, a printed brochure can only be picked up upon arrival and will probably be discarded a short while later.
The app would allow users to book activities/experiences and pay in advance, and not take a chance. For example, if the villagers can produce steamed Chinese dumplings, known locally as pau, as fabulous as those of Tanjung Sepat in Selangor or Kuala Kangsar in Perak, many locals will head there if they could book online.
Every destination must identify its own niche market, just like every restaurant has its own speciality. Trying to be greedy by catering to all kinds of tourists will end up nowhere. But having a multilingual destination app is a must.
It is unlikely for cruise tourists disembarking at Port Klang on shore excursions to pass through Pandamaran, as most are eager to head towards Kuala Lumpur or Putrajaya, or pass through Shah Alam or Klang. However, like all other Chinese New Villages, Pandamaran’s history and culture could draw tourists from China, Taiwan and the Chinese diaspora spread across South-East Asia, particularly the Hokkien speaking community, just as Hakka is predominant in many Chinese New Villages.
The famous bah kut teh (meat in a herbal stew) in Klang and Pandamaran sold by the Hokkiens is mostly the drier version, whereas the Teochews, famous for their porridge, serve the soupy type. For decades, Chinese restaurants located in Pandamaran’s residential areas have attracted residents from Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya, and the seafood cooked is mostly in the Hokkien style.
If Pandamaran could get its act together, it would become a popular destination for weekend tours organised by tour companies that operate a fleet of tour buses. Instead of leaving them idling on some Sundays, these tour companies would offer cheap bus tours to locals.
Such tours could include a group lunch with sightseeing and shopping stops. Those who would enjoy such excursions the most are wealthy retirees who would love to buy loads of local produce ranging from fruits to frozen seafood at reasonable or low prices. Naturally, the shopkeepers and tour guides would be equally happy.
In future, such tours could be accompanied by remote controlled drones to provide added safety and security for tour groups. These drones could relay real time videos to the tour operators’ command centre and to family members who wish to monitor their loved ones.
Tourists would also be able to share pictures and videos from the destination app to show that they are having a great time in Pandamaran. For me, even a short clip of mudskippers, which can be seen in abundance on mud banks, would thrill me to bits, as I find them utterly cute.
Finally, the destination app would provide information to visitors on how to get there on their own or using public transport, where to stay, what to see, eat or try. If they wish to immerse themselves in the local culture, they could spend more time learning how to make a local handicraft or cook a local dish.