The Gaya Travel team recently had the opportunity to catch up with the new Chief Executive Officer of Langkawi Development Authority (LADA), Tan Sri Khalid Ramli, an erudite, forward-thinking gentleman who kindly updated us on LADA’s plans to turn Langkawi into one of the top ten eco-tourism destinations in the world by 2015.The step towards making Langkawi into one of the top ten island destinations in the world is guided by the Langkawi Tourism Blueprint 2011-2015, which was launched by the Prime Minister back in December 2011. Though not impossible, the climb to the top will definitely come with its own set of challenges. “Since tourism is a globally competitive industry and contributes largely to the economy of nations, Langkawi Tourism Blueprint is timely as it provides a clear direction and vision to position Langkawi in the world international map. The Blueprint is contributing to the Malaysian tourism industry, aiming to bring in RM168 bilion of tourism receipts by the year 2020,” Tan Sri Khalid enlightened us during the interview.
However, in moving forward, efforts are being aggresively undertaken to implement the iniatiatives as outlined in the Blueprint to deliver Langkawi as a successful tourist destination and to provide a satisfiying experience to the tourists. According to Tan Sri Khalid, LADA is going back to the real underlying question, which is to determine the most apt branding approach for Langkawi. From there, LADA will develop fitting strategies to enhance its product offerings and to market the island to the world-wide audience. “The island has its own unique attractions and biodiversity which is located in one small area: amazing geological formations; unique fauna (the island alone is home to 445 species out of 1200 butterflies species in Malaysia and ten types of hornbills); pristine and natural tropical environment; world class hospitality; excellent infrastructure and duty-free shopping,” Tan Sri Khalid beamed.
The Langkawi Tourism Blueprint involves 14 initiatives that include improvement of the ferry services and connectivity, comprising 77 sub-initiatives being executed by several agencies and coordinated by LADA. Regarded as the second wave of development for the island, the Blueprint will see the upgrading of Langkawi’s product portfolio. Considering more than 65% of Langkawi’s population depend on tourism, the Blueprint also provides the opportunity for these locals to treble their income because the enhancement of Langkawi is expected to attract more visitors to the island, hence more people that the locals can sell their goods and services to. Due to the many benefits that are believed to be brought about by the Langkawi Tourism Blueprint, the locals welcome it with open arms.
Tan Sri Khalid further expressed that to meet the challenges in achieving the targets set by the Langkawi Tourism Blueprint, LADA itself has to undergo transformation by realigning its human capital competencies and organisational system and infrastructure to the Blueprint’s requirements. LADA acknowledges the fact that it needs to upskill its human capital in various aspects such as in the marketing and branding of Langkawi, as well as in instituting efficient and effective human resource practices and prudent financial management. “LADA plans to enhance the competencies of its personnel through on-the-job training as well as engaging the advisory and consulting services from external parties,” he added.
He further elaborated that LADA intends to explore new media avenues to reach the existing and new markets. Apart from the lucrative high end segment of the market, Langkawi is also targetting the mid-range and domestic segments actively so that the island shall continuously receive visitors all year long and to easily cushion any fall of tourist arrivals from any other segment. Tan Sri Khalid revealed that LADA continues to tap the high potential international tourist markets such as Russian, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, India and greater China. “Langkawi has its own unique charms that can never be found elsewhere and it is in our attempt to make these tourists to become ‘addicted’ to the island so that they will want to come to the island repeatedly,” Tan Sri Khalid quipped.
He further shared that LADA also plans to work closely with the aviation industry so that they could explore new flight connectivity to the island, as well as providing incentives to travel agents who bring in more chartered flights from the potential markets to Langkawi. LADA also plans to reemphasise duty-free shopping by encouraging the sale of luxury items at reasonable rates, recommending duty-free retailers to carry mostly mid-range items because of their speed in getting sold since they are quickly bought up by the middle class, the largest segment of market for retail. International large scale events are also being staged in Langkawi to attract more tourists such as the LADA-organised Langkawi International Laksa Carnival (LILAC) and the International Jet Ski competition in conjunction with Langkawi Water Festival 2012.
When asked on what he hopes to see with regard to Langkawi’s future, Tan Sri Khalid shared that his hope is aligned to the government’s plan, which is to see Langkawi eventually makes it to the position as one of the top ten island destinations in the world.In closing the interview, Tan Sri Khalid revealed his personable side by sharing with us his favourite eating place in Langkawi. “Don’t forget to try out the many local restaurants that offer mouth-watering local specialities,” he enthused, quickly assuming his position as Langkawi’s main marketing man, reminding us to enjoy ourselves during our visit. By having Tan Sri Khalid at the helm, we are confident that LADA’s astute leadership is more than able to steer Langkawi towards becoming one of the world’s top island destination.
The Gaya Travel team extends our heartfelt gratitude to Tan Sri Khalid Ramli and LADA for making this interview possible.