16 January, 2012

The Little Treasures in Malaysia


I was very pleased with the acknowledgement from The New York Times, which listed Melaka as one of the ‘must-see’ places of 2012. As a state steeped in rich history and culture, not to mention a gastronomic delight, I’m sure we can all agree that Melaka is deserving of the praise.

Sometimes, a foreigner’s perspective such as above, helps to remind us of the very elements that make us unique as Malaysians. It reminds us that the things we are so accustomed to — such as our regular teh tarik sessions at the mamak, our weekly Pasar Malam outings, and our local fruits such as durian and langsat — are exactly the things that tourists and foreigners find so fascinating and uniquely Malaysian.

Interestingly, when I travel abroad and interact with Malaysians living overseas, they will always cite these things that they take for granted as the very things they miss. For the rest of us who live at least a large portion of our lives here, it is a blessing that such things are well within reach.

It could be due to this realisation or due to rising cost of living, but Malaysians are opting for local holiday destinations more often. In particular, households with a monthly income of RM1,001 to RM3,000 are travelling domestically the most.

However, the Government intends to make Malaysia a more desirable holiday destination for tourists both local and foreign. In December last year, I launched the Tourism Action Plan for Langkawi , which aims to turn the island into a popular destination on par with Seychelles, Mauritius, and Bali, just to name a few. The plan hopes to create 4,200 new job opportunities and generate up to RM3.8 billion in income for the island from 3 million tourist arrivals by 2015.

The next time you enjoy a teh tarik, or attend a wedding, or even visit your relatives in the kampung, I hope you take in your surroundings anew. In fact, why don’t you tweet me photos of the things that are especially Malaysian. You might develop a new appreciation for the little treasures that make us special as a country, a culture, and a people.