BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – ‘Railway tourism’ is being looked into as a new integrated tourism product that will not only help boost tourism in Asean countries, but also open up economy for rural areas in the region.
Malaysia’s Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen said Malaysia presented the idea during the 13th Asean Tourism Ministers’ meeting here, as seven out of the ten member countries can be linked by rail.
“Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar can all be linked by rail which will help connectivity between Asean countries,” said Dr Ng.
She said Malaysia had developed its own railway tourism where tourists from Singapore could come into Malaysia using trains.
“So this is a very important forum for us to share ideas, to get everybody involved. With many Asean countries like Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam coming out strongly, this can be a strong strategy for us.
“I can see people coming to Malaysia and then take trains to go to other Asean countries … I see ourselves at a very strong anchor position to develop multi-Asean destinations,” she said on the sidelines of the meeting at the Empire Hotel and Country Club here, on Sunday.
Asked on the response from the other delegations on the proposal, Dr Ng said they were at first quite suprised by the suggestion but were very happy that it was brought up.
“So now we need to work upon it, which towns, which provinces, which are the target groups because it is a ‘no rush holiday, take your time’ type.
“Railway tourism opens up economy for the rural areas. That is why for railway tourism in Malaysia, we are focusing on the east coast namely Kelantan,” she added.
The focus on this new product is part of the ‘rail and sail’ concept Malaysia wanted to aggresively pursue domestically, where cruise tourism is also viewed as an emerging tourism product for the country, she added.
“We want to offer and develop Malaysia into a very strong cruise tourism destination, we are trying very hard but still working on it, it’s not easy as it is a high-end, highly sophisticated tourism industry,” she added.
On another note, Dr Ng also reacted positively on more low cost carriers being established as it really ‘opened up’ the region, so much so that the Meeting also talked about the possibility of having an Asean-owned airline.
“But this is still at the discussion level, we still have to look at accessibility, we (Asean countries) are at different stages of development, so how are we to integrate that?,” she said.
Dr Ng said the Asean region was still very new in terms of the tourism industry or destinations when compared with Europe where the people have been travelling around since the 18th century.
The 13th Asean Tourism Ministers meeting today was to discuss closer cooperaton and collaboration between the 10 Asean countries to develop and integrate tourism.
It is part of the Asean Tourism Forum (ATF) 2010 which is being held from Jan 21 to 28 with Brunei playing the host.