Langkawi goes from sleepy to sexy

Langkawi cements its luxe credentials with upscale products, while festivals emerge as the music to the ears of high-spending Europeans

The opening of Ritz-Carlton Langkawi this month is another feather in the cap for Langkawi, today, the island resort destination in Malaysia with the most number of luxury resorts.

Arokia Das, senior manager at Luxury Tours Malaysia, said: “In the early 2000s, Langkawi was not on the map (for luxury travel). It was a sleepy island with few hotels and not many activities to interest the foreign tourist.”

“But now, it is well promoted in India as a beach destination just an hour’s flight from Kuala Lumpur,” he said, adding that the company has seen more affluent Indian tourists opting for Langkawi in the last five years.

Moreover, Ally Bhoonee, executive director of World Avenues, said: “Langkawi is a must for long stay tourists from the Middle East who visit Malaysia for two or three weeks in their peak season.”

“The island, with its varied high-end accommodation brands, helps elevate Malaysia’s status, which has long been known as a middle-income destination.”

Activity options that can impress high-end tourists have also made Langkawi an appealing luxury destination, Arokia said, citing helicopter rides, cruising on Harley Davidson bikes and private yacht sails as examples.

Bhoonee added that many of the Langkawi’s islands are uninhabited and relatively untouched, which makes for sought-after experiences such as fishing, snorkelling and wildlife watching.

Moreover, the destination also has ample support services that satisfy high-end tastes, such as luxury cars and good restaurants.

“Transport providers have benefited from Langkawi’s duty free status to invest in the latest models of luxury cars, making it easy for us to obtain transfer services to support the needs of the high-end traveller,” Bhoonee shared.

According to Langkawi Development Authority (LADA) CEO Azizan Noordin, high net worth tourists make up 15 to 20 per cent of tourists to the island.

Apart from helping the trade promote luxury packages, LADA is also working to attract more scheduled and charter flights. “We provide marketing support of up to RM300,000 and encourage airlines to offer packages for the luxury segment.”

LADA will also organise the Langkawi Island Music Festival, taking place on Pantai Cenang from December 22 to 24. The event will coincide with the year-end peak, when European tourists typically flock to the island. According to Tourism Malaysia statistics, UK tourists to Malaysia spent an average of RM692 daily in the destination last year, higher than the average regional tourist, the bulk of tourists to Malaysia.

In addition, LADA will also support the inaugural Langkawi International Blues, Roots Aseana event, taking place from December 29 to 31, also on Cenang Beach.

Iskandar Zulkarnain, director of sales and marketing of The Andaman, a Luxury Collection Resort, Langkawi, is doubtful longhaul tourists will visit just for the festivals, but opined that such events could help enhance visitor experience and encourage extended stays.

Disagreeing, Adam Kamal, CEO at Olympik Holidays, said: “Blues, island music followers and those with high disposable incomes will not think twice about traveling just to attend a music festival that they feel passionate about.

Kingston Khoo, senior product development, contracting manager, Discovery Overland Holidays, said: “Music festivals are always a hit with Europeans. It gives them another reason to consider Langkawi.  Such events are important especially when so many other destinations are (competing_ to woo them. You’ve got to stand out from the crowd.”

Meanwhile, Azizan is optimistic that the hosting of PATA Travel Mart 2018 in Langkawi will help elevate the destination in the luxury segment.

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