Juxtaposed against the steely skyscrapers of nearby Kuala Lumpur, Selangor state has emerged as an up-and-coming destination that can offer travellers what they crave for nowadays – a large dose of local culture coupled with unique rural experiences
Selangor’s countryside charm is fast winning the favour of tourists, with growing demand for nature and local experiences stemming from the region and beyond.
Adam Kamal, general manager, Tour East Malaysia, said: “Asians and regional markets used to be attracted to big cities in Malaysia for its shopping, entertainment and cosmopolitan ambience. But these days, there is more demand for authentic local experiences, and these draws can be found outside of major cities.
“Repeat visitors especially wish to see new attractions other than Selangor’s traditional draws such as Sunway Lagoon theme park and Batu Caves. They also want to enrich their holiday experience by meeting with locals,” he added.
Manfred Kurz, managing director, Diethelm Travel Malaysia, agreed: “The attractiveness of Selangor countryside – be it Kuala Selangor, Sepang, Gombak, Sabak Bernam, Hulu Langat and Ulu Selangor – is its easy accessibility, a 1.5-hour drive from the nation’s capital.
“Selangor is also rich in ecotourism, culture and historical places that make it ideal for day tours,” he added.
One such tour that Diethelm runs is a day trip to Bukit Melawati, a 300-year-old historic site filled with local lore. The visit is followed by a seafood dinner in a local restaurant, as well as a night boat ride to watch fireflies in Kampung Kuantan. The company also works closely with local communities and runs homestay programmes in Gombak and Sepang, as well as overnight cycling tours where guests get to stay in local properties.
“We find that even middle-aged Europeans are willing to spend a night or two at homestays, as they are keen to experience local living and participate in activities such as learning to cook local dishes or learning how to weave baskets and mats,” Kurz elaborated.
Arokia Das, director of Luxury Tours Malaysia, agreed: “Visiting the Selangor countryside used to be sold as an optional add-on for tour packages (centred on) Kuala Lumpur.
Thanks to increased demand for unique experiences, it is now part of packages (being sold to) Indians, Europeans and Filipinos.”
For Arokia, his company works with local fishermen, farmers and plantations to create experiences for travellers such as collecting bamboo clams and cooking them the local style, learning about the process of tapping rubber trees, or harvesting paddy fields.
Kamal attributed the growing interest in Selangor’s countryside tours to “the efforts of Tourism Selangor, to promote new products and attractions such as Sky Mirror at Kuala Selangor Beach, and agrotourism in Sekinchan”.
Rural tourism is indeed gaining popularity with Malaysia’s traditional inbound markets such as China, Japan and regional countries, shared Tourism Selangor general manager, Noorul Ashikin Mohd Din.
“From this year onwards, we will also be promoting Selangor and rural tourism to emerging markets such as Taiwan, Japan, Hong Kong and Europe through our maketing representatives,” she said.
As part of its efforts to promote rural tourism, Tourism Selangor has trained local communities in Sabak Bernam and Kuala Selangor to be local guides in the areas they live. This year, the training will continue in Ulu Langat, Gombak, Hulu Selangor and Kuala Langat. This Community Host Programme is endorsed by the Selangor State government. So far, 21 have already undergone training and are active guides.
Noorul said the pilot project was initiated to create community experts who are knowledgeable in their area’s lore and history, culture, heritage and food, which they can share with tourists.
She added that this project will assist rural communities by allowing them to earn extra income through guiding, and the sales of local crafts.
As part of efforts to help market the services of community guides, Tourism Selangor has produced culture maps of Klang, Kuala Selangor and Sabak Bernam respectively which includes a list of places to eat, things to do, historical sites, as well as contact information for local guides and inbound agents.