Making Langkawi Great Again
Langkawi Island is one of the most famous tourist attractions for both domestic and foreign visitors. This is partly due to the efforts of the Langkawi Development Authority (LADA) which plays a major role in establishing Langkawi into a world-class tourism destination. International Business Review speaks to the CEO of LADA, Nasaruddin Abdul Muttalib about the agency’s future goals outlined in its Strategic Plan 2022-2026 and how he intends to steer it forward in the post-pandemic environment.
LADA was established on 15 March 1990 as an agency under the purview of the Ministry of Finance Malaysia (Treasury of Malaysia). It is mandated to promote socioeconomic development in Langkawi, develop it as a tourist destination and duty-free zone, and promote the island’s tourism and infrastructure as well as agriculture, industrial and commercial development.
Nasaruddin shared that over the past 10 years, LADA has focused on developing Langkawi’s tourism sector, which resulted in a total of 3.92 million people visiting the island in 2019. “We are very proud of this achievement as it is a testament to our decade-long efforts in promoting Langkawi as a world-class tourism destination,” he shared.While the onset of the pandemic had severely impacted Langkawi, Nasaruddin highlighted that LADA had been instrumental in helping the island weather the storm.
A Look Back at the Pandemic
Langkawi’s tourism industry was hit hard by the pandemic. The number of visitors who travelled to the island decreased significantly to 1.8 million in 2020, a more than 50 percent decrease compared to the previous year.
“To revitalise Langkawi’s economy and tourism sector, we launched the Langkawi Tourism Recovery Plan (T-REC), aimed at winning the trust of tourists and encouraging them to visit Langkawi. One of the core objectives of T-REC was to promote the island as a safe tourist destination. To achieve this, we worked closely with related agencies and NGOs,” Nasaruddin shared.
He added that LADA implemented MySafe Langkawi, strengthened standard operating procedures (SOPs) at jetties and the airport, and created a Task Force to monitor compliance with these SOPs. Under T-REC, mass promotions were also carried out in the form of road and trade shows, media buys and other events and campaigns, targeted toward both domestic and international travellers.
“The Langkawi International Travel Bubble required travellers to be fully vaccinated before entering the island where they would have to purchase minimum insurance coverage of US$80,000. Covid-19 tests are done daily and a Rapid Test-PCR or Rapid Molecular Test must be done before departure from Malaysia. As of the 1st of February 2022, only 2.39 percent (125 pax) of travellers tested positive,” Nasaruddin stated.
These efforts have led to many awards and recognitions. Readers of Condé Nast Traveler, a luxury and lifestyle travel magazine, ranked Langkawi as the sixth-best island in Asia, accumulating a score of 93.96 percent. LADA also topped the ‘Heritage Article’ category at the International Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Gold Awards 2021 as well as bagged the ‘Special Awards On Travel Bubble Initiatives’ at the 2021 Malaysia Tourism Council Gold Awards.
“These efforts and recognition reflect our ongoing commitment to propel Langkawi’s development forward – and to help the people and businesses build back better after the pandemic,” Nasaruddin affirmed.
As Malaysia’s international borders fully reopened on 1 April 2022, a total of 2.5 million tourists are expected to visit Langkawi, which translates to RM4.25 billion in revenue.
Taking into account the long-term implications of the pandemic in widening inequality and socioeconomic imbalance in Langkawi, the LADA Strategic Plan 2022-2026 was launched as a post-epidemic recovery plan to boost Langkawi’s economic status.
“The plan outlined four main objectives, namely to plan and improve the post-pandemic economy of Langkawi in the next five years, ensure the development plan for the Langkawi tourism sector is implemented successfully, drive socioeconomic and the tourism sector’s recovery and ensure good governance,” Nasaruddin explained.
It covers nine core areas which include World-Class Geo and Eco-Tourism Destination; Viable Investment Destination; UNESCO Global Geopark Development & Management Leader; Livable, Inclusive and Sustainable Development Planning; Progressive and Dynamic Community Development; Strengthening Innovation and Competitiveness Among Entrepreneurs; Productive and Sustainable Organisational Development; Integrated and Systematic Asset Management; and High-Performing Human Resource Development.
“The plan is part of LADA’s ongoing initiative to remain relevant in the current environment and to meet the expectations of its stakeholders. We believe that it could advance the government’s goals outlined in the Twelfth Malaysia Plan (12MP) to regenerate the economy, enhance safety, wellbeing and inclusivity, as well as boost sustainability.” Nasaruddin stated.
At Its Heart
Another area that LADA especially commits to is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Its CSR programme began back in 2010 with an aim to aid the development of the community. Distribution efforts through LADA’s CSR fund ensure that the people of Langkawi can enjoy substantial economic growth from the subsequent development of Langkawi, as well as stressing the importance of the inclusive development practice for its people.
“Through this, we continue to support Langkawi’s tourism players, whose income has been significantly impacted by the Covid-19 outbreak. As of April 2022, RM3.6 million from the pledged CSR pool had already been disbursed,” Nasaruddin shared.
2022 and Beyond
In 2022, LADA intends to make Langkawi Island a top 10 tourism destination in the world. “Our strategy is divided into four principal components, namely Leisure (International & Domestic), Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) and Tourism Events. These action plans range from promoting green, experiential and responsible tourism, to incentives such as duty-free shopping and creating Instagram-worthy spots,” Nasaruddin shared.
Throughout the year, LADA expects to carry out 18 domestic and 7 international events, namely the Langkawi Geopark Enduro Challenge in June, the Langkawi Extreme Challenge in July and the Langkawi International Tug of War (LITOW) in October among others. Tourists can also look forward to the Langkawi UNESCO Global Geopark Carnival in June and Langkawi Fossil Day in October.
Also lined up are the Langkawi Travel Fair (Qatar, China, Singapore) which will last until November, JATA Tourism Expo (Japan) in September, ASEAN Roadshow in October and many more.
“Connectivity to the island has also been enhanced with new domestic routes from Kuching, dredging at the jetties of Kuala Kedah and Kuala Perlis, and a multitude of airline collaborations. This is pivotal to ensure a seamless travel experience for tourists,” he concluded.
As the world heals itself from the devastation of Covid-19, businesses and leisure expenditures will see a gradual increase. Hence, LADA strives to actively promote Langkawi Island as a premier world tourism destination and in doing so, elevate Langkawi and Malaysia’s economy to new heights.