What are the unique selling points of Ipoh? How can Ipoh be branded as a food haven which is claimed by many? What are the major problems Ipoh faces in its development as a food tourism destination?

These were questions which popped up during the Forum on Food, Festival and Tastebud-Tickling Tourism held on Friday, June 5 at at the Mini Oasis Library, Ipoh.

Coming in the wake of the highly-successful Pinji Fest 2015, this well-facilitated forum was co-organised by Howard Lee, the Adun for Pasir Pinji, through his Perak-based think tank, PROSPECT and Wageningen University, Netherlands.

“The idea is to consolidate all the information and come up with a policy proposal for the entire Ipoh or even Perak,” said the exuberant Howard whose mind is often filled with brilliant ideas, to Ipoh Echo.

As the forum moderator, he encouraged everyone to think outside the box. Hence, radical ideas, new insights and a diversity of views emanated from the 13 participants during the two-and-a-half hour discussion.

Among those present were Anne Pladdet, a Master’s student from Wageningen University, Commander Ian Anderson (Rtd), the founder of IpohWorld, Edmund Chak, representing Lavender Lodge, Cheong Xue Mei, representing the Gopeng Community Library, David, the founder of ‘All About Ipoh’ Facebook page, representatives from Ipoh Echo and some passionate Ipohites.

Anne, a student in leisure tourism and environment with a bachelor in consumer studies, is currently doing a research in Malaysia about food tourism with a comparative study between Georgetown and Ipoh. Her line, “having destination dining venues doesn’t make you a dining destination”, hit the nail on the head.

Among the issues raised included the need for publicity, the effects of haphazard developments, accessibility and transport.

Because everyone had a chance to contribute to the discussion and be heard, the final result felt like it was a consensus of opinion.

“Fundamentally, from what everyone has said today, I think there are promising changes that we can make. It is just about drawing information from all the different corners of society like you guys and then having the expertise of someone like Anne to put it into the right perspective. And this is fundamentally what we’re doing today. To get information and to build alliances,” said Howard in his closing remarks.

Mei Kuan