Haadyai is a regional destination, while Langkawi is regarded as an international one.
Tourism on Langkawi caters to all market segments, say tourism players - The Vibes, January 3, 2024
By Ian McIntyre
TOURISM players in Langkawi do not want the island resort to be compared with southern Thailand's biggest city of Haadyai since both places of interest have varying attractions when it comes to tourism.
Haadyai is by most accounts, a regional mid-range destination just like Johor is to Singaporeans, said Tropical Charters Sdn Bhd owner Datuk Issac Alexander.
The operator of a cruise charter service here said Singapore does not complain if many of their citizens flock to Johor, especially over the Christmas - New Year festive period.
“This is similar to how some 140,000 Malaysians visited Thailand over the seven-day year-end period … Why should there be any concerns?” asked Alexander.
He said Haadyai for the longest time, was always a frequent destination for Malaysians since the 1970s.
Haadyai is a regional destination, and can maintain a cost-competitive advantage whereas Langkawi is regarded as an international one, Alexander said.
"Hence it is unfair to compare Langkawi with Haadyai. Both have different attractions and both can complement each other," said Alexander.
Haadyai is mostly about street shopping, food and entertainment whereas Langkawi is about beaches, eco-tourism, geo - parks and recreation besides its duty-free shopping.
He was responding to reports questioning tourism players if something could be done, as Malaysians are flocking to Haadyai instead of Langkawi.
Alexander said contrary to some reports, Langkawi enjoyed brisk business during the year-end festive period with some holidaymakers extending their stay there.
But the arrival figures would pale in comparison to the likes of Haadyai and Phuket (Langkawi's main competitor) because the latter had teething issues over the tides, which was caused by extreme sediments accumulation at the base of the Kuala Perlis and Kuala Kedah ferry terminals, said Alexander.
He added that this was further complicated as airlines could not find ways to lower the airfare and increase flights to Langkawi due to the irregular demand load factors.
Given time, Alexander said that Langkawi can compete with Haadyai over the number of tourists but it is pointless to compare both destinations.
"They are not in the same leisure market. Langkawi has more five-star properties compared to Haadyai."
Tourism Langkawi coordinator Ahmad Pishol Isahak said that tourism on the island resort caters to all market segments but although it may not be wise to compare, Langkawi can emulate Haadyai in some ways.
Firstly, Pishol said that the private sector there was united, so likewise in Langkawi, the entire field of travel trade members need to be on the same page.
"Unfortunately, the private sector in Langkawi is riddled with cliques with some five associations jostling to see who can best represent the industry."
Secondly, Pishol said that packaging is important, as it can drive down costs.
"Now, there is even a free tut-tut service from the border checkpoints into Haadyai."
Langkawi can do more with its connectivity points, Pishol said, adding that Penang Port Sdn Bhd must also assist by allowing the revival of the sea route between Penang and Langkawi to resume after it was suspended for the past three years.
Having better accessibility to a destination strengthens its tourism clout, said Pishol.
He added that the private sector in Langkawi must find ways to drive down costs, especially in hospitality charges and vehicle rental, as well as food.
"Langkawi is a one-stop tourism destination. It caters from budget to up-market travellers. We must cater for all and we must package it as a must-see destination."
There is also a need to animate the attractions in Langkawi, so more local tourists will find it appealing enough to come, he added - The Vibes, January 4, 2024.