Pahang targets more than 8m tourists on border reopening

The target achievable, especially with the state’s new tourism attraction ‘astrotourism’ or dark sky

by ANIS HAZIM / pic by BERNAMA

PAHANG expects up to eight million tourists this year as the country’s borders will reopen on April 1, said State Tourism, Culture, Environment, Plantation and Commodities Committee chairman Datuk Seri Mohd Sharkar Shamsudin (picture).

He is optimistic about the target as Pahang had received about 2.2 million local tourists last year although Malaysia reinstated the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO).

“Last year — because of the CMCO, we only received 2.2 million local tourists as there were no international tourists.

“In 2020, we received seven million (local and international tourists). In a normal year, we received around 14 to 15 billion, so we hope that this year Pahang can recover maybe around eight to nine million,” Mohd Sharkar told a press conference after a signing ceremony of a memorandum of understanding between Malaysia Inbound Tourism Association and Langit Kita Sdn Bhd yesterday.

On Saturday, Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin Abu Bakar said Malaysia is making preparations for tourists’ arrival as the government agreed to reopen borders on April 1.

Among others, the protocol will require travellers to download the MySejahtera application, upload the real-time Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) test results before departure and fill in pre-release forms.

“Travellers will need to fill many pre-release forms,” Khairy said, adding that travellers will get a traveller card in the MySejahtera application when all the conditions are met to be allowed to board the plane.

Meanwhile, Mohd Sharkar forecast that the tourism industry in Pahang will generate an income of RM10 billion to RM11 billion this year.

He is confident that the target can be achievable, especially with Pahang’s new tourism attraction, “astrotourism” or also dubbed as a dark sky.

“Astrotourism, also known as astronomical or celestial tourism, is a new tourism concept where tourists have the opportunity to see the beauty of the full sky with stars in dark sky areas that are free from light pollution,” he said.

Besides, tourists will also have the opportunity to visit the observatories and planetariums, as well areas of astronomical value such as asteroid impact areas.

“We will start promoting this tomorrow — we have to start the model before the borders open,” he said.

With the Pahang National Park and various dark sky areas in Pahang, these could potentially be gazetted as the nation’s first dark sky reserve as it is free from development lights overflow.

Moreover, Pahang National Park has a good night sky quality in the range of 22 to 24 magnitude, according to the sky project advisor Assoc Prof Dr Zety Sharizat Hamidi and Associate Prof Dr Nafhatun Md Shariff from Universiti Teknologi Mara.

However, Mohd Sharkar said the official location for the astrotourism has yet to be confirmed, but it will be announced soon.