By Iskandar Dzulkarnain

Negative impact of Langkawi's super ferry

Langkawi Island is a beautiful jewel and one of Malaysia's best kept secrets.

Its charm and beauty is internationally acknowledged and today it is the number one tourist destination in the country.

Bestowed ‘Geopark' status by Unesco is proof that Langkawi is a unique Tourism Product. Until today, Langkawi still retains its quiet tranquillity, majestic charm, laidback lifestyle and natural beauty.

Less than a week ago, it was renamed ‘Naturally Langkawi' by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak.

Sustainable tourism

The Langkawi Development Authority (Lada) is the governing authority for the island. Non government organisations (NGO) like the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta Kedah Chapter) Langkawi Tourist Guide Association (LTGA) Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) Car Rental and Taxi Associations also play a big part to ensure sustained development on the island.

The secluded location of Langkawi and its limited accessibility are the main factors why Langkawi has retained its natural charm and beauty.

According to Ms Liza Hamzah - Matta Chairman Kedah Chapter - Langkawi has achieved sustainable growth through the years, with the participation of the various NGO's together with Lada, to oversee and prevent runaway development that will mar the landscape of the island.

Today, Langkawi has nearly 40 international class hotels and over a 100 guesthouses, chalets, hostels and home-stay programmes.

It is complemented by nearly 200 licensed travel agents, which provides a variety of services and travel products, including car rentals, hotel transfers and optional tours.

In addition, there are about 2000 rental cars and about 1200 taxis providing transport and rental services.

Introduction of a super ferry

However, the serenity and charm of this island is about to change with the proposed introduction of a super ferry with the capacity to transport 300 cars and buses into the island.

The introduction of this super ferry in the near future would have a negative economic impact on the island.

With a daily influx of 300 extra vehicles a day onto Langkawi's limited roads, it would destroy the serenity of this island, causing traffic jams and undue pollution.

Negative economic impact

It would also adversely affect the 200 travel agents, who have invested heavily to provide extensive transport infrastructure like hotel transfer services, car rental, limousines, day tours and excursions.

Today, nearly 1200 taxi drivers who provide taxi and sightseeing tours to the tourists would see their income dwindle to a trickle, if tourists are allowed to bring their own vehicles to the island.

Downstream activities from jump-off points like Kuala Kedah and Kuala Perlis would also be affected with many travel agents and car park operators going out of business.

The influx of cars and buses into the island would cause travel agents and car rental operators to buckle and go bankrupt overnight, as thousands of new hire purchased vehicles would be left redundant.

It will also lead to agencies being unable to repay their loans, leading to repossession by the banks.

New car dealers would be badly affected, as they are dependent on travel agents and car rental operators for the bulk of the business.

With tour coaches and vans coming in with their own tourist guides, it will take away the jobs and business of these tour operators. Tour coach operators would be affected and so too would be the large number of tourist guides who are dependent on the tourist dollar.

In light of the huge negative economic impact on the local people and businesses in Langkawi, Matta hopes that the Langkawi plight be duly highlighted and that governing authorities responsible for the sustainable growth of the island, the Kedah state government and the federal government look into this matter without further delay.