Developing tourism holistically


I REFER to “Melaka hotels feeling the pinch” (The Star, June 8; online at bit.ly/star_melaka).

Melaka Smart City Advisory Council chairman Khoo Poay Tiong lamented that the number of occupied hotel room nights in the city dropped from 4.79 million in 2017 to 3.13 million last year despite the increase of visitors to the state.

Last year, there were 17,020,098 visitors to Melaka, an increase of 225,630 compared with 16,794,468 estimated for 2017.

When addressing industry matters, it is crucial to use the correct terminology for clarity. In the tourism industry, visitors are either excursionists (day-trippers) or tourists (staying overnight).

All visitors should be welcomed. Although tourists spend more time and money, such as for accommodation, excursionists contribute significantly to areas such as food and beverage, shopping, entertainment and transport such as river cruises and trishaw rides.

The focus should not be limited to the plight of licensed hotels, but if the authorities are sincere, they should not delay implementing regulations on unlicensed accommodation, many of which compromise the safety and security of tourists and the neighbourhood.

Home-sharing – that is, those who rent out a room or two where they are living – should be left out of the regulation. But renting out rooms, apartments or houses in which entrepreneurs do not live are commercial ventures and should be licensed and made to pay commercial rates for water and electricity.

Otherwise, the government is promoting a shadow economy that pays little or no taxes or licence fees and is seen as adopting a couldn’t- care-less attitude towards tourists and people in local neighbourhood.

Such practices also induce hotel operators to venture into the unlicensed business and convert existing hotels into service apartments, if feasible, to attract tourists looking for private accommodation.

To induce visitors to stay overnight, a destination must have a variety of interesting activities at night or early morning. The state already has Encore Melaka, South-East Asia’s largest permanent show theatre that seats more than 2,000 with shows from 5.30pm to 8.30pm Mondays to Saturdays, and afternoon shows on Sundays.

Every destination claims to have the best food, but others may not like what the locals consider as tasty with heavy doses of oil, salt, sugar, spice, and artificial flavours and colouring.

Melaka should develop and offer unique dining experiences and take a leaf from the Hawaiian luau (barbecue).

Sports activities can be arranged to allow runners to cover the distance of half-marathons or cyclists to ride their own or rented bikes very early in the morning on selected routes, protecting them from traffic and before the sun gets too hot or the air polluted by smoke from vehicles.

Tourism development requires a concerted effort from all quarters and benefits many industries and residents. But more must be done than simply talking about it or simply dishing out more of the same to produce the same dismal results.

YS CHAN

Petaling Jaya

letters , opinion , tourism , Melaka