Gaya Travel Magazine recently sat down for an exclusive interview with The Honourable Datuk Abdul Rashid bin Asari, Executive Councillor for Tourism, Culture, Malay Customs and Heritage Selangor to understand his vision on enhancing Selangor’s tourism competitiveness.
1. What are Selangor’s plans to enhance its tourism competitiveness? Does the state provide incentives to the tourism industry players so that they can boost their businesses?
We rely on rich natural resources and competitive prices to appeal to tourists. The industry players also tend to be global, through our open policies. We realise the strategic role that tourism plays in creating opportunities and support the sector proactively. There are still gaps in terms of infrastructure (air, road, tourism service infrastructure) and ICT readiness within the industry, which the state government is currently addressing. Besides that, Selangor state government also participates in annual expositions and exhibitions such as MATTA Fair and Selangor International Expo through Tourism Selangor to showcase the state’s tourism products and services, creating awareness and directly attracting the public towards them, including expanding the industry players’ network.
2. Which areas of tourism (culinary, sports, culture, heritage, festivals, nature, MICE, etc.) do you think is Selangor strong in? Are there plans to tap on other areas of tourism (medical tourism, edutourism, voluntourism, extreme sports, e-sports, etc.) that can be successfully done in Selangor?
Being located at the heart of Malaysia, Selangor possesses all of the mentioned areas, which are remarkably accessible compared to the other states.
Selangor is one of the states with the highest number of healthcare centres in Malaysia and it houses hospitals with Joint Commission International (JCI). Based on the prevailing currency exchange rate that results in Selangor’s medical cost to be 65% to 80% lower than in Western countries, it is wise for medical tourists to come to the state, which provides vacation opportunities to their families as well. The state also taps into edutourism to not only boost income, but also nurture lifelong learning through edutourism packages that combine leisure with guided experiential learning, thus exposing edutourists to unique knowledge-based attractions that could lead to positive changes in perception and attitude. We are in the midst of collaborating with the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture on these areas.
For extreme sports, Selangor is preferred because of the existence of several parks dedicated to such sports throughout the state. These parks receive support and cooperation from local authorities and district offices. I believe this can be done successfully.
Lately, the Minister of Youth and Sports Malaysia encourages for e-sports to be commercialised in Malaysia by collaborating with the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture Malaysia. We have responded to this initiative by looking into the impact towards the tourism industry, and it could be implemented in the next few years.
3. Selangor’s heritage appeals to many international travellers for example Klang Old Town (including Istana Alam Shah), Kuala Kubu Bharu, Kuala Selangor and Jugra. Are these sites difficult or costly to maintain? May we know what are the state’s plans to make these sites more popular, especially among foreign tourists, and more profitable so that they eventually could pay for themselves?
Conserving heritage buildings is crucial because it provides the sense of identity and continuity in the fast-changing world for future generations. Heritage buildings basically represent the past history and culture of a nation. I must admit that it is difficult and costly to maintain these, but we are committed towards promoting it through our local and overseas promotional series to attract sophisticated tourists, especially from foreign countries, to visit these historical sites.
By collaborating with municipal and district offices in the state, we plan to promote Selangor’s popular historical sites to foreign tourists through overseas promotion. For instance, during Japan Tourism Expo (JATA) 2018 held from 19 until 23 September 2018, in collaboration with Klang Municipal Council, we introduced LocoMole app for tourists to explore and enjoy the Royal Klang Town Heritage Walk on their own. As the royal town and former capital of Selangor, Klang is replete with historic buildings, including quaint and traditional structures. The Royal Klang Town Heritage Walk aims to highlight Klang’s charm, character and unique attractions, including clusters of colonial vestiges, places of worship, school, fire station, royal gallery, and warehouse built by a local Malay chieftain.
Apart from that, Kuala Kubu Bharu (KKB) is worthy of world heritage listing because it was designed by Malaya’s first town planner Charles Reade, based on the influential ‘garden city movement’ of urban planning, first initiated by Sir Ebenezer Howard back in 1898.
Selangor state government, through the state agency PlanMalaysia@Selangor, and MDHS (Hulu Selangor District Council) have initiated a study – conducted by a professional consultant – to identify KKB’s strengths that reflect ‘Universal Outstanding Value’ (UOV) so that KKB town can be gazetted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site or a National Heritage under the National Heritage Act. By December 2018, Selangor state government would have obtained the outcome of the study for further action. In the meantime, several development and conservation projects have also begun at the MDHS level such as repainting of a building in KKB town, renovating the old fire station and converting it into the district tourist information centre, upgrading of public facilities, adding more accommodation options, improving public recreation facilities and more.
4. What is the prospect of cruises in Selangor? Is Port Klang still a port of call for cruise providers? Are there plans to encourage more cruise providers to stop at Port Klang?
Cruise tourism is one of the National Key Economic Areas (NKEA) intended to increase the number of tourists specifically to Selangor and generally to Malaysia. The statistics from the Ministry of Transport Malaysia show that the number of stopover cruises increased in January 2018 through Boustead Cruise Centre Port Klang, which received 27 cruise calls from 10 cruise ships, bringing some 50,895 cruise passengers to Selangor. We are now looking at the feasibility of opening an information centre at the cruise terminal building to cater to these cruise passengers.
The cruise experience to Selangor offers an exciting fusion of colourful culture, fascinating history, scenic landscapes and exotic cuisine. The Boustead Cruise Centre in Port Klang is operating as the port of call for major cruise lines like Cunard, The Royal Caribbean, Princess Cruises, Costa Cruises and Star Cruises, with more joining in.
5. What are YB Dato’ Exco PelanconganSelangor’s hope regarding Selangor tourism industry in the next five years?
Travel and tourism are important economic contributors to many countries around the world because they bring indirect and induced impacts, which are significant. Selangor, being one of the most developed states in Malaysia, fittingly complements the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur. I believe in the next five years, Selangor’s cities will be on the same par as the other developed cities that meet the needs of tourists and offer world-class facilities to all.