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Former Tourism DG: Clamp Down on Illegal Tourism Practices In Langkawi

KUALA LUMPUR: Authorities at both state and federal levels are urged to intensify efforts to eradicate illegal tourism operations throughout Langkawi, as there is a greater need for a major clean-up to restore the island’s reputation and ensure a sustainable future for its legitimate tourism industry.

Association of Ex-Staff Tourism Malaysia chairman Datuk Seri Mirza Mohammad Taiyab Beg said the government and tourism industry leaders must take crucial steps to accelerate the recovery of Langkawi and attract more tourists to the island.

Former tourism ministry director-general Datuk Seri Mirza Mohammad Taiyab Beg said there has been a surge in unlicensed hotels, motels, tour operators, and car rental services operating across Langkawi.

He said these illegal operators not only compromise the quality of the tourist experience but also result in significant revenue losses for the state due to unpaid taxes.

“By eliminating these illegal operators, a concerted effort must also be made to make room for licensed and legitimate operators who comply with regulatory standards and contribute positively to the local economy.

“In addition to cracking down on illegal operators, there is a strong push to enhance transport links to and from Langkawi.

“Proposed measures include increasing the number of ferry services from Penang and other destinations to boost accessibility to Langkawi.

“This enhancement in transport facilities will attract more domestic and international tourists, thereby increasing economic input into the region,” he told The Exchange Asia.

Furthermore, he said, the tourism-related authorities must implement a new programme to promote visits to the islands surrounding Langkawi.

“Lower ferry fees could make these nearby islands more accessible, enriching Langkawi’s tourist offerings and spreading economic benefits widely across the region.

“The government must take proactive initiatives to foster a healthier, more regulated, and economically beneficial tourism environment, ensuring that Langkawi continues to thrive as a premier island destination in Malaysia,” Mirza said.

Further, Mirza urged the government at the state and federal levels to address several critical areas impacting the industry, focusing on improving facilities, accessibility, transportation, and safety and security measures vital for sustaining and growing tourism across the country.

“There is a growing consensus among industry stakeholders that enhancing these aspects of tourism infrastructure is essential for maintaining Malaysia’s appeal as a top travel destination.

“Specific improvements in transportation networks and the security framework are necessary to ensure a safe, accessible, and enjoyable experience for international and domestic travellers,” he said.

Additionally, Mirza said there is strong advocacy to rope tourism experts to the ministry and related tourism bodies and agencies to elevate the tourism industry, as the current sentiment among industry professionals is that the sector suffers due to the appointment of individuals lacking relevant tourism knowledge and expertise.

Mirza, who is also the chairman of the Association of Ex-Staff Tourism Malaysia (AESTOM), said skilled and experienced professionals must be involved in strategic planning and decision-making processes to foster innovative ideas and practical solutions that will elevate the tourism industry.

“Bringing in experts is expected to lead to more informed and effective policies that can enhance the overall competitiveness of Malaysia’s tourism sector.

“Bring experts from AESTOM to advise and consult the tourism ministry, agencies, and tourism professional bodies on how to elevate the Malaysian tourism industry to be on par with global standards.

“This strategic shift will uplift the industry and ensure that it contributes significantly to the national economy while preserving the cultural and natural heritage that attracts millions of visitors to Malaysia each year,” he said.

Mirza held the post of director general of Tourism Malaysia (2006–2018). His tenure exposed him to various assignments, from planning, development, and project management to marketing, communication, and international promotions.

He was also the regional director based in Germany and Japan and the general manager of Langkawi Island Resort and Tanjung Jara Beach Hotel.

He was also the deputy commissioner general for the Malaysia Pavillion at World Expo 88 in Brisbane, Australia, vice president of the Association of National Tourist Office Representatives in Japan (ANTOR) Japan, and head of the marketing task force for ASEAN National Tourism Organizations and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Tourism ministers meeting.

Moving on, Mirza said Langkawi, like many global tourist destinations, is still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic and striving to regain its position as a leading island getaway.

He said the government and tourism industry leaders must take crucial steps to accelerate this recovery and attract more tourists to the island.

“Key among these strategies is establishing a price control mechanism to ensure affordability and prevent price gouging, which can deter tourists from considering Langkawi as a destination.

“This mechanism must be aimed to standardise prices across services and amenities on the island, including accommodation, dining, and local attractions, to enhance its appeal as a value-for-money destination.

“Furthermore, a significant push must be made towards a more aggressive marketing and promotional strategy to spotlight Langkawi internationally.

“Authorities must consider partnerships with foreign media outlets, bloggers, and social media influencers to generate buzz and highlight the island’s unique aspects.

“By showcasing the island’s natural beauty, cultural richness, and unique tourist spots, these efforts are expected to draw a wider audience and boost visitor numbers,” Mirza said.

He said these combined efforts are part of a broader strategy to recover the losses incurred during the pandemic and build a more resilient and appealing tourism sector for the future.

“By implementing these targeted initiatives, Langkawi will re-establish itself as a top choice for domestic and international tourists, ensuring a steady growth in tourism inflows in the post-pandemic era,” Mirza said.

 

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