Exclusive Interview with Idris Bin HJ Haron, Chief Minister of Malacca State

Malacca (Melaka in Malay language) is one of Malaysia’s success stories in tourism. Since being named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Melaka city in Southern Peninsular Malaysia has seen a boom in tourism. In just five years time, from 2010 to 2014, tourist arrivals –both domestic and international- almost doubled, growing from 8.5 to 15 million visitors. Tourists however represented a total of 4.33 million who spend an overnight. Malacca is the 6th most visited State by foreign travellers, representing in 2014 over 6.7% of all guest arrivals in accommodation.

Idris Bin HJ Haron, Chief Minister Melaka at ITB Berlin last March

How can the relatively small-size State -1,600 km2, approximately twice the size of Singapore with a population of 880,000 inhabitants- will further manage to accommodate world demand?

According to Chief Minister of Melaka Idris Bin HJ Haron, there was last year a further increase of 29% in total visitors arrivals, boost by a recovery of the Chinese market and a strong demand from Europe.  “Despite the negative impact created by the Malaysian Airlines plane tragedy, we continued to attract more visitors last year”, indicated the Minister .

How Melaka State with its relatively small population – 890,000 inhabitants- and relatively small size -only 1,651 square km- can then further cope with the massive growth in tourism? For the Chief Minister, diversification is the key word to accommodate tourist movements and avoid pressure on the historical town which represents a tiny portion of Malacca total urban area.

“We developed constantly our infrastructure over the last decade such as the Rivercruise with small boats
offering a guiding tour along the pictorial old town. We opened new museums and also boosted the shopping experience with AFamosa, an outlet factory mall. We however never lose focus of matching development with sustainability”, indicated Idris Bin HJ Haron.

“They are a lot of development but we look of course at the viability of all projects. We do not want to turn Melaka into a kind of Disneyland with attractions which have little to do with our own culture”, indicates the Minister. Without telling it, the Minister thinks of an aborted project of creating an “Arabic Town” just outside Melaka. The project has been frozen as the main promoter decided to abandon it. “We now look at converting the empty buildings maybe by creating an Arabic style food court”, told the Minister.

Meanwhile, culture is high on the agenda of the Minister who hopes to further boost Melaka UNESCO old town. Through the 11th Malaysia Plan (11MP), Haron wants to develop a Javanese Cultural Complex, a Nusantara Islamic Civilisation Gallery, an Alor Gajah Heritage Trail and Klebang Tourism Centre. A working paper on these various projects has been submitted to the federal government for consideration and financing.

Cruise tourism is also targeted. “We want to receive more direct cruises from big cruise liners as passengers are generally high spenders. We currently develop a cruise lines terminal in the free trade zone of Melaka”, indicated the Minister.

Melaka also supports the further addition of hotel capacities. The State has some 8,500 rooms and another 3,500 is needed to fully cater with tourism demand.