New Malaysian economic zone to focus on tourism

Penang is now attracting the mice market

A newly announced economic development zone in northern peninsular Malaysia will give a fillip to the tourism industry in the northern states, eTN reported.

The Northern Corridor Economic Region (NCER) blueprint was announced last week and will focus on tourism, in addition to diversifying the area into a more modern manufacturing, agricultural, services and logistics center.
A combined government and private sector initiative, the plan aims to boost the economy and raise income levels in the northern states of Perlis, Kedah, Penang and Perak in peninsular Malaysia. Covering a span of 18 years, the $51 billion masterplan aims to create half a million jobs by 2012, rising to one million by 2018
The northern states have a strong heritage, arts and cultural tourism products which are yet to be discovered.
Efforts will be made to concentrate on re-energising and rebranding Langkawi Island and Penang first, and subsequently develop critical mass on two to three other locations on the mainland.
According to the blueprint, the tourism industry in the NCER states requires more tourist destinations with a critical mass of attractions. Islands in the Northern Corridor will be enhanced to become premier destinations for medical tourism, while stepping up the local community's participation in the tourism sector.
Presently, despite many attractive lake resorts and recreational parks in the region, poor maintenance and thinly spread resources has resulted in low visitor interest and volume.
Penang will be promoted as an international MICE destination, as well as the northern hub for medical tourism. "In the past few years, Penang has successfully focused on developing itself as a regional destination for cultural, heritage and medical tourism,” said State Tourism Development Committee chairman, Teng Chang Yeow. “Unlike Hong Kong and Singapore, Penang is not able to draw the cruise crowd because we don't have the facilities.”
To raise Penang's profile as an international MICE destination, an eco-friendly centre, Penang Global City Center (PGCC) comprising two iconic towers, a shopping complex and an arts theatre will be built on a former turf club land in central Penang.
A city garden centre, linking the present Botanical Gardens and Youth Garden will also be built. Jerejak island, a former penal colony for convicts, will be turned into into the region's medical tourism centre. The state's tourism office is looking at attracting 500,000 foreign patients in the next three years, bringing an estimated revenue of $30 million.
Penang's thrust as a logistics centre will revolve around the announced $2 billion major projects under the NCER masterplan.
As host of the Malaysia Tourism Exchange Bureau in 2008, Penang plans to attract more than 200 tourism industry buyers from Asian countries to the island.
Asserts Prime Minister, Abdullah Badawi, “Suitable incentives will be provided to develop the tourism industry which will enable the industry to become the engine of development for the Northern Corridor.
“The challenge for the tourism industry in the Northern Corridor is to raise the income derived from the industry.”
By Clark Kelly