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The Star

Tuesday, Dec 29, 2009

Terengganu can focus on tourism

To make Terengganu a tourism hub and generate income, the state should promote tourism vibrantly without delay. Depending on oil revenue alone may not be wise.

When oil revenue is depleted within perhaps 10 to 15 years from now, the state may find it hard to sustain its economy. Terengganu would by then have a population of more than 1.5 million people.

More than 90% of the state's present budget allocation comes from the Federal Government partly through oil revenue - of which a certain portion is allocated for the state as oil is produced off the Terengganu coast.

The state on the other hand cannot depend solely on the prospects of drawing foreign or local investors to boost its economy. This has become too competitive with the liberalisation of economies in the region.

Even within the country, the state may lose to the west coast states when it comes to choice of location for these investors.

The yearly sectorial contribution of tourism to the state economy is still not significant enough to sustain it without help from other sources. The number of domestic and foreign tourists is lower than two million a year.

Even the annual average hotel occupancy rate is lower than 55%, peaking only during public holidays and long-term school holidays. The duration of stay of foreign and domestic tourists is fewer than five days on average.

It has been observed that most government-run tourism sectors are not up to the mark. Some are more of a “charity” nature, and this would not contribute much to the state's coffers.

The state can play a more positive role in encouraging the private sector to develop its tourism industry.

The state, in reality, has plenty to offer. The islands, beautiful beaches (it has a 244km coastline), rivers, handicrafts, historical sights, waterfalls, lakes and natural forests are some of the interesting attractions.

The state government should rope in more private entrepreneurs to help develop these sectors in an environment-friendly way.

Tourists would like to see more natural tourist spots which are eco-friendly. Let the private sector do the promotion of these tourist destinations with the support of the state.

The government's role should be to provide the best infrastructure for the tourism industry to flourish.

It has to be business-friendly, and there should not be any “red tape” when entrepreneurs want to promote the industry. The local business community should ensure prices for food and other goods and hotel rates are not exorbitant.

Better sanitation is another area that the local business community should give priority to. The government on its part could play a role to rein in some of these disincentives that would turn away tourists.



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