Ecotourism development proposed for Iskandar Malaysia
Iskandar Malaysia needs to diversify its tourism products instead of relying on theme parks to meet the needs of its visitors, said an industry specialist. Head of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia’s Tourism Planning Group, Prof Dr Amran Hamzah said there were many potential products in the area which could be developed such as those related to ecotourism.
“Even though we have four or five theme parks, we need other attractions to sustain the number of tourists coming into Iskandar Malaysia and Johor. Iskandar Malaysia and Johor is filled with ecotourism attractions such as the Pulau Kukup , Tanjung Piasi and Sungai Pulai Ramsar site as well as the Engdu-Rompin National Park,” he told Bernama. The three Ramsar sites cover 23,000 acres of land (1 acre = 0.4 hectares) and their combined acreage form the largest uninhabited mangrove area in the world.
Iskandar Malaysia is home to the Legoland Malaysia and Hello Kitty theme parks which have attracted millions of tourists. The Legoland Water Theme Park will begin operating by month-end. Besides that, Johor is set to have an Angry Bird Theme Park in Johor Bahru and a marine and a water theme park in Desaru in two or three years’ time.
Not included is a third theme park in Iskandar Malaysia as announced recently by Iskandar Regional Development Authority (Irda) chief executive, Prof Datuk Ismail Ibrahim. Commenting further, Amran said Johor had the potential to become a destination for ecotourism should its ecotourism areas be exploited to the maximum. There were packages available to the Ramsar sites, but they were not comprehensive and had short visiting hours which left tourists feeling deprived of experiencing culture, food and traditions there, he said.
He cited the success of packages provided at the Mekong valleys in Thailand and Vietnam which brought in millions of tourists yearly. Sabah was no less impressive, boasting ecotourism products which had been developed to international standards, he added.
Besides the Ramsar sites, Amran said Johor also has Gunung Ledang and Johor Bahru city which could be developed as ecotourism products. He was referring to the Bukit Timbalan historical building which can be turned into a tourist destination with various facilities. “Cultural performances can be held at Bukit Timbalan, in line with its image as a tourist attraction in Johor,” he said. Johor Bahru also had a heritage trail which features the unique cultures of races in the city, he said, adding that ecotourism offered lucrative returns to those venturing into it. – Source.