Making old new again

While Langkawi has long been the state’s crown jewel for tourism, Kedah state government now wants its other attractions to be recognised in their own right through its newest destination campaign, finds S Puvaneswary


The Kedah state government is reaching back into its millennium-long history for its latest  Discover Kedah 2016 campaign, which spotlights archaeological tourism in Bujang Valley with the tagline of Where it all began.

Targeting five million arrivals and RM5.9 billion (US$1.4 billion) in revenue this year, the campaign is aimed at increasing international visitor footfall to Kedah by raising awareness of tourism offerings in the state as a whole apart from Langkawi, Tourism Kedah CEO, Zulkifli Mohamad, told TTG Asia.

He said: “Langkawi has a strong brand and an international airport. Through this campaign, we want people to associate Langkawi with Kedah. When they visit Langkawi, we also want them to extend their holiday to the mainland.”

Tourism Kedah currently has 20 trained guides to provide interpretation for tourists who visit Bujang Valley’s Sungai Batu Civilisation Complex, which date back to 535BC.

Mokhtar Saidin, director at the Centre for Global Archaeological Research at Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), believes the archaeological sites will be well received by the international community, as the relics are even older than Cambodia’s Angkor Wat and Borobudur in Indonesia.

He added: “This is the only historical site in South-east Asia where you see four distinct functions – ritual sites, an ancient harbour, administrative building and iron smelting industry – in one locality.”

Kedah Sungai Batu Civilization Archeo-Adventure Society started offering guided tours of the historical sites early this year. Said Mazlan Mahmud, founder chairman of the society: “Interest stems mainly from students, historians and a niche segment of tourists who are interested in archaeological tourism.”

Welcoming Tourism Kedah’s heightened efforts to promote the mainland, Anthony Wong, group managing director, Asian Overland Services Tourism & Hospitality Group, commented: “As an inbound tour operator, (the campaign) will make it easier to promote the destination to our overseas partners. We have come up with new packages on mainland Kedah, including the Sungai Batu archeo-tourism packages.

“We will also work with state tourism authorities to host ground arrangements when there are familiarisation trips for overseas agents and media,” he added.

Long dubbed the crown jewel in Kedah’s tourism, Langkawi is not resting on its laurels either.

CEO of Langkawi Development Authority (LADA), Khalid Ramli, said: “Our focus is to target more high net worth tourists and we are intensifying marketing efforts this year to highlight tourism products that Langkawi has to offer. We are leveraging the weakened ringgit to attract more domestic and international tourists.”

LADA will capitalise on AirAsia’s new four-times weekly flights between Guangzhou and Langkawi with B2B roadshows in Guangzhou and its neighbouring cities in 2Q2016 to attract more leisure and MICE business travellers. Guangzhou is the second international destination with direct access to Langkawi, after Singapore.

Meanwhile, LADA is also trying to attract more chartered flights to the island by linking arms with Malaysia Airports Holdings to roll out a new charter flight incentive programme.

This article was first published in TTG Asia, April 1, 2016 issue, on page 25. To read more, please view our digital edition or click here to subscribe.

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