By Nabilah Hamudin, Leanne Tan and Rosli Mansor
Before you know it, Visit Perak Year (VPY) 2017 is well-nigh past its sixth month. How time flies! Throughout the past few months, aside from the usual advertisements, countless projects and events were organised to boost the number of domestic and foreign tourist arrivals to the silver state. With the sheer amount of blood, sweat and tears put into promoting Perak as a holiday destination, one may wonder whether all the effort and ‘hard work’ paid off. In this issue, Ipoh Echo examines the progress of VPY 2017.
According to Dato’ Nolee Ashilin Mohammed Radzi, the Executive Councillor for Tourism, Arts, Culture, Multimedia and Communications, Perak has seen an increase in the number of foreign visitors from around the globe since January this year.
“The number of tourists who flew into Ipoh airport during the first quarter (January to March) this year has increased by 10 per cent compared to the same period last year,” said Nolee, adding that this would help the state achieve its eight-million target as a consequence of VPY 2017.
Based on statistics from Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad, Perak witnessed a total of 31,785 tourist arrivals for the first quarter of the year compared to 22,095 last year.
Nolee added that MAH’s (Malaysian Association of Hotels) campaign, the “100,000 Hotel Rooms Promotion”, was well received. This was partly due to the many international sports events held, such as the 5th Ipoh International Waiters Race, Ipoh Cycle Fest, 26th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup and the Asia Rugby Championship.
What do Industry Players Say?
For some tourism industry players, VPY 2017 is something that they can be proud of. However, there are those who felt more needs to be done to achieve its target.
According to MAH (Perak Chapter) Chairman, Maggie Ong, tourist arrivals to Perak have increased by 15 per cent between January and May. Nonetheless, hotels have experienced a corresponding increase in their income.
“There are many reasons behind this,” said Maggie. “One is the incremental number of day-trippers. We found that most of domestic tourists prefer a day trip, especially on weekends. In fact, they use Perak as a transit point to get to other destinations,” she lamented.
Another factor is the increase of other types of lodgings, such as homestays, service apartments and the phenomenal Airbnb, which have impacted hotel occupancy rates.
“It’s a trend now for local tourists to opt for these lodgings, as they’re cheaper and can accommodate a larger number,” said Maggie.
Maggie suggested Tourism Perak double its efforts in the remaining six months, by promoting VPY 2017 to international markets, in view of locals opting for day trips. Besides, an international airport needs to be built in order to bring in more foreign travellers to Perak.
“Our first of its kind in Asia theme park, Movie Animation Park Studios (MAPS) is opening soon. It’ll attract tourists from China and the Asian regions,” she added.
Dissimilar to hospitality, promoted destinations such as Gua Tempurung, Kellie’s Castle and Maxwell Hill are attracting tourists during VPY 2017.
Gua Tempurung manager, Roslan Abdullah said from January to May, Gua Tempurung had recorded a total of 43,000 visitors.
Based on ticket sales, Roslan revealed that 90 per cent of visitors were locals while the remaining were foreigners.
“We hope to receive 110 to 120 foreign visitors by year-end. Response from locals is good during school holidays and festive seasons. Most of them are repeat visitors, as they want to try the various packages on offer,” he said.
Despite claims that VPY 2017 lacked promotion and was short on “mega” activities, Roslan felt that Tourism Perak had succeeded in promoting Perak and its touristic products to Asia and Europe, during the first six months of VPY 2017.
“We only have another six months to ensure VPY 2017 achieves its objective of making an impact on the state’s economy.
“There may be a lack of promotion and large-scale events to enliven VPY 2017 but we’ve to appreciate that the current economic climate is not too conducive,” he added.
The manager of Kellie’s Castle, Zamari Muyi felt more needs to be done by Tourism Perak.
“Like Gua Tempurong, Kellie’s Castle too has recorded a five per cent increase in visitors between January and June, compared to the same period last year.
“What’s worrying us is our target of 10 to 15 per cent increase in visitors for VPY 2017. How are we to achieve this when we only had a five-percent increase in the first six months?” Zamari reasoned.
Zamari proposed that promotional efforts should focus on domestic tourists not foreign.
“The current economic climate affects the local tourism industry, especially the unstable fuel prices.
“Why do we lack local tourists? The answer is simple, lack of promotion,” he remarked.
With only six months remaining to achieve the goals, Zamari said all parties, including non-governmental organisations, and individuals have to play their part to enliven VPY 2017.
“We can’t rely solely on Tourism Perak to do the promotional work.”
Zamari suggested more cultural performances to be held at major entry points such as at railway stations.
“We can organise cultural performances or busking at these points. We can engage with the tourists by distributing pamphlets and brochures to them.
“By intensifying the promotional efforts, it’s not impossible to achieve the target of tourist arrivals of eight million for VPY 2017. We’ve to work together with Tourism Perak and the state government to help promote the state,” he said.
Tourism and Media Welfare Department head of Taiping Municipal Council, Hanim Ramly, said the number of Zoo Taiping and Night Safari visitors had increased in the first five months of VPY 2017. The number can only be revealed in July.
“For me, the first six months of VPY 2017 is neither a failure nor a success, but progressive efforts have brought many improvements to the state. VPY 2017 brings many foreign travellers to Taiping and Perak.
“We need new approaches in our promotional efforts, as the current ones are too predictable and overused. There is an increase of tourist arrivals between January and March. However, we cannot deny that the country’s current economic climate has affected VPY 2017.”
What do the Tourists Say?
Perak has two types of tourists – the day-tripper and the weekender. The day-tripper would come to enjoy the food or some attractions and return home. He or she would not mind spending the whole day at one part of Perak but would not stay for a night.
Why does this happen? According to Nolee, it’s something Tourism Perak and the state government have to accept, as it is largely due to the prevalent economic situation.
“People are more cautious when it comes to spending. But on the flip side, Ipoh can offer them an alternative – a budget vacation. For the day-tripper, Ipoh has much more to offer in terms of food and places,” said Nolee.
Nurul Hawa Hussin, 29, comes to Ipoh on a day trip to enjoy its delectable food, which she cannot get in Kuala Lumpur.
“I don’t mind going to Ipoh as early as 6am to have my breakfast at its popular place and spending time with my family at Gunung Lang and walking around Old Town,” she said.
Martin, from United States, described Ipoh as a perfect place for a stress-busting and romantic weekend.
“After working in Kuala Lumpur for a week, my wife and I booked a three-night stay at the Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat, based on an internet research and backed by good word of mouth. We’re blown away. Located within a dramatic limestone and jungle setting, the place surprised us. We became happier each passing day.
“Ipoh is truly a nice place for a long weekend. It’s not far from KL and it’s pretty accessible,” he said.
VPY 2017 has definitely seen an increase in the number of tourist arrivals to the state. But whether it is enough to attract eight million visitors by year end, is still debatable.
It cannot be denied that the country’s economic climate has affected the tourism industry in Perak. With our weak ringgit, Malaysians are definitely more cautious in their spending. Although this has increased the number of foreign travellers to Perak, the sentiment, however, is not shared by domestic travellers.
For the second half of VPY 2017, Nolee plans to promote Movie Animation Park Studios (MAPS), the first animation park in Asia, to bring in more tourists from other parts of the country and the world.
“We’ll negotiate with airlines to arrange for direct flights from other countries like Brunei,” said Nolee.