Thursday, December 8, 2011
LIMA 2011 and Langkawi's 5 Year Development Plan
The Langkawi international Marine and Air show started on 6th December this yesr and will not end till tomorrow (10.12.11). The island is thronging with tourists and major hotels are full to capacity. Kuah the commercial centre, the Aiport area where the airshow activities are focused on, and Pantai Cenang the resort and entertaiment hubb reaching up to Porto Malai, are buzzing with people. You see them in dark coats and ties (the coperate and business people), in uniforms with shiny brass and colorful braids and stripes ( the police, army, marine and air officials) and those in casual holiday attire ( the tourists and other visitors). The first two groups can be seen rushing around to perform their duties, the thord group enjoying their visitation and shopping spree.
This time around another group became more prominent - the artists and cultural performers. LIMA had been combined with the Langkawi Cultural Festival organised by the Ministry of Tourism,, the Ministry of information and the Local Authority. While the days were filled with LIMA activities highlighted by the sights and sound of screaming jet planes crisscrossing the sky, the nights were filled with cultural shows that attracted the entire population of the island. At all the festival sites new make-shift shopping and business centers sprung up to blend with the existing permanet business premises. All seemed to be doing brisk business.
While the exhibition displaying models of the jet planes, jet engines, warships weaponries etc and the actual airshow with the MIG 29Ns, the Typhoons, the Super Hornets, the Sukhois etc performing all sorts of stunts in the air were excellent and breathtaking, one could not fail to notice that the number of partipants in both had shrunk. There were a number of empty counters in the Exhibition Center and the number of planes taking part in the airshow had decreased. Only five Smokeys took part in the air stunts perFormed by TUDM while there used to be nine. The rolls, the loops, the free falls, the steep climbs, the formation exhibits etc were okay but there was no Red Arrow kind of heart-throbbing performance, no double or tripple rolls with a jet shooting through it since shooting through the trail of a heart as performed by the TUDM wasn't that spectacular. There was no low,upside-down flying accross the airfield, which was shown once before by the Red Arrow team.
I did not visit the Marine show at Porta Malai since not much was said about it and the display of putting out a fire on a ship in open sea and the foiling of a boat's take-over attempt by pirates which i once saw, was not too spectacular either. i did not take the opportunity to see the controversial submarine that TLDM bought at a supposedly inflated price.
The question that must be asked is whether government had exploited the LIMA show to the full to promote Langkawi as a world class tourist destination. The participation of the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Information and Cultural Heritage seems to have made LIMA more eventful but my visit to the Cable Car ride at Gunung Mat Cincang, the Geopark River Ride, the Perdana Galleria, the Buffaloe Park, the handicraft Glass-blowing Center etc , did not convince me that these centers of attraction had been effectively marketted although some centers like the Makam Mahsuri had been improved. They were quite empty during my visit and there was no special events to greet the group visit asit was done outside the scheduled time. I would think that special events should be held when visitors arrived, not force them to come according to the scedule of the operators. The nature and elaborateness of the event or demonstration can be geared towards the size of the visiting group to cut down expenses. These and more events had to be organized if Langkawi is to become a world class tourist center like Bali, Phukett snd even Hawaii.
The M!inistry of Defence had to view LIMA as more than just a military showcase to display all the modern machine and weapons of war and combat and their capability. The social dimensions of defence must be explored and that includes protecting and promoting the cultural and economic aspects of life in Malaysia and on the legendary island. It must also think tourism like all the other ministrues since tourism is fast becoming a major income earner for the nation bringing in RM56.5 billion last year. All potentials for expanding the tourist trade mus be explored throuhg LIMA. Since the public has been shownn through LIMA all the capabilities of the jet planes and warships made by different countries, the public's view can also be sampled during The LIMA celebration. At least the Ministry and the Governmen will know what the public feels abput buying combat jet planes costing RM 3billion each as opposed to buying cheaper ones.
The Langkawi 5 Year Development Plan has also been announced by the PM which intends to bringing in 3 million by 2015 and earmarks a RM5billion investment package. The Plan will focus on promoting the Geopark, developing Pulau Dayang Bunting and Gunung Mat Cincang, building 5 more 5 star hotels, creating a Park Ranger Team, improving infrastructure , provide ding chartered air service and providing more incentives for holding meetings and convention in Langkawi. Would all these really attract more visitors if the entertainment packages are not significantly increased in variety and quality. The Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Information and Cultural Heritage should be spearheading a thorough reorganization, upgrading and marketing of the entertainment packages to support the 5 Year Development Plan.