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Melaka River, A New Economic 'Cake' For Hang Tuah State Print E-mail
Monday, 22 June 2009 02:49

Melaka CM Datuk Seri Mohamed Ali Rustam (right) taken for a sight-seeing at the Bandar Hilir in a trishaw ride that starts from Dataran Sungai Melaka. Pic: Shaharim
By Mohamad Bakri Darus

MELAKA, June 22 (Bernama) -- More than a decade ago, Sungai Melaka was notoriously known as a river clogged with rubbish and other wastes.

Now, the scenario is altogether different as Sungai Melaka is a 'must visit' attraction for tourists, the locals and foreigners alike.

Many have commended the state government's efforts to beautify Sungai Melaka including creating scenic landscapes on the riverbanks.

Pedestrian malls were constructed, enabling the public to take leisure walks along the river that flows right through this heritage city.

Under the Sungai Melaka beautification programme, that cost more than RM300 million, the 4.5km-stretch from Jambatan Hang Jebat in Taman Rempah right up to the river's estuary in Bandar Hilir, was turned into a tourist attraction.

The cost also covered the construction of a water treatment plant and a barrage.

(A barrage is an artificial obstruction at the mouth of a tidal watercourse used to increase its depth or maintain a separation between fresh and salt water or reduce the risk of tidal flooding up the river).

There is robust development going on on both sides of the river including the construction of hotels, restaurants and shops, and the ultimate aim is to make Sungai Melaka like the San Antonio River in the United States, world renowned for its beauty and cleanliness.

MELAKA RIVER CRUISE

A visit to Melaka is considered incomplete without taking the Melaka River Cruise.

In the boat ride that lasted some 45 minutes, tourists were briefed on the tourism products that can be found along the river like Kampung Morten, a Malay traditional village that is located right in the middle of this heritage city.

"I am fascinated by the beauty at Sungai Melaka as I had been here before and saw many fishing boats, a lot of mangrove trees and water lilies as well as garbage. The monitor lizards were really big then,...but now everything has changed," said a tourist from Kedah, Azhar Othman, 50.

Bernama met Azhar, his wife and five children while taking the Melaka River Cruise recently.

Azhar is among the some 100,000 visitors who attended the nine-day Melaka River carnival 2009 that began last May 30 and is among the 34,000 people who took the Melaka River Cruise during that occasion.

ECONOMIC CONTRIBUTOR

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Ali Rustam has expressed his confidence that Sungai Melaka and its attractions would be able to become the state's major economic contributor.

He said the Melaka River and Beach Development Corporation, the operator of the 25 Melaka River Cruise boats, collected RM270,000 from ticket sales during the river carnival.

Sungai Melaka is among the new tourism products actively being promoted by the state government. The other products being Menara Taming Sari at Bandar Hilir, Eye On Malaysia at Sungai Melaka and several shopping malls at the Melaka International Trade Centre (MITC).

Melaka is also actively promoting the tourism sub-sectors like history, culture, recreation, sports, shopping, conventions, health, education, agriculture, food and the Melaka My Second Home programme.

TOURISM PACKAGES

Mohamed Ali thanked Malaysians who visited the state in the last school holiday.

"In only two weeks, Melaka received more than three million visitors and 280,000 vehicles have entered the state via tolled roads, the number is definitely higher as vehicles also entered via the untolled roads", he said adding that all the hotel rooms were taken up by guests.

All the recreational spots in the state had also recorded an increase in the number of visitors.

To date, Melaka offers 5,150 hotel rooms including that in the five-star premises. There are also 2,458 rooms offered by the homestay operators in the state.

In 2004, 4.0 million tourists visited Melaka followed by 4.7 million a year later. In 2006 the number went up to 5.1 million visitors followed by 6.1 million (2007) and 7.2 million in 2008.

The target is 8.0 million for this year.

Last year's statistics showed that tourists from Singapore topped the number of foreign visitors to Melaka at 236,673 followed by China (188,683), Indonesia (106,612), Hong Kong (44,030) and Taiwan (30,747).

NEW TOURISM DESTINATIONS

Mohamed Ali said the state is in the midst of offering new tourism attractions.

The largest bowling centre in Malaysia is being constructed apart from a planetarium. Other facilities include the monorail and aerorail as well as a roller coaster complex.

He said more and better facilities would be provided for the tourists.

Meanwhile Terengganu is keen to emulate Melaka's success in drawing the tourists.

Terengganu Menteri Besar Datuk Ahmad Said who visited Melaka with state government officials for four days from last June 12 is drawn by Melaka's way in developing the tourism industry.

According to Ahmad, Terengganu has rivers,lakes, beaches and islands that could be developed into tourist attractions. Last year, 3.5 million tourists visited the East Coast state.

-- BERNAMA


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