Decision makers missing the point in promoting Taiping

Taiping Lake Gardens

Taiping is a historical town with plenty to offer. Yet, the authorities appear to be paying mere lip service when it comes to the progress of this town in Perak.

It has the potential to grow by leaps and bounds where cottage industries can become global players with its charm easily winning the hearts of many. It is no surprise Taiping was recently acknowledged as among the top three best destinations in the world.

But there is nothing promising for the youths in Taiping, except for a handful few who have family businesses to fall back on.

Youngsters are willing to turn their backs on nature and tranquility in exchange for neon lights in bigger cities like Penang and Kuala Lumpur.

After all, even at the federal and international levels, Malaysian stakeholders often glorify cities like Penang, Kuala Lumpur, the beaches in the east coast and Sabah.

But there is a group young of business owners eager to change all that. All they want is some form of initiative from the state government to get things rolling – to turn the eyes of the many to this tiny town.

They lent their voices in an article published by Twentytwo13 yesterday.

The best the state government can offer is hosting the state-level National Day celebration come August 31 and banking on the Malaysian Mountain Trail Festival at the Spritzer Eco Park in December.

A spokesperson from the Perak Tourism, Arts and Culture Committee revealed the state-level National Day parade plan but was unable to comprehend that the issues faced by youths in Taiping is beyond such one-off affairs.

The spokesperson said Ipoh was the transportation hub from where tourists travel to various destinations, including Taiping and Kuala Sepetang but no projected figures were given.

Committee chairman Tan Kar Hing had during the state assembly session last week revealed four on-going projects in Taiping. They include upgrading the jetty and public amenities at Kuala Sepetang and refurbishing six chalets at Maxwell Hill worth RM3 million. He also shared a ‘Perak bucket list destination’ with Taiping Zoo & Night Safari and Bukit Larut among the 20 must-visit destinations in the state.

It remains unclear if the state government has any economic strategies and policies in place, beyond the refurbishment work. Efforts to speak to Tan proved futile. A Mr Loh, claiming to be Tan’s personal assistant, did not see the need for Tan to provide his insights as he claims such matters were already addressed at the state assembly.

The key word that is missing from the equation is economic sustainability. A promising economy in Taiping will have a spillover effect in other localities including Kuala Sepetang – famous for its seafood, eagles and even dolphins. It’s not just about having a pretty website or Facebook postings about on-going projects in these towns. This is where Tan should be (if he is not already) working with the state economic planning unit to address concerns and inject new opportunities for the locals.

There were those who hailed Visit Perak Year 2017 a success but once again, the locals, especially in Taiping and Kuala Sepetang, were unable to see how the 16 per cent increase in tourist arrivals contributed to their businesses. Strangely, there aren’t many foreign tourists in Taiping. Just ask the locals.

The grouses by the locals are legitimate. These youngsters can very well follow their friends by packing up and leaving for bigger and brighter prospects elsewhere. Yet, they remain in Taiping for the love of the town.

All they need is some assurance that the powers-that-be will turn Taiping into a must-visit destination not just for domestic travellers but also on the international stage.

If only people understood the significance of Taiping, its history, and what it has to offer, this town of 33 firsts could easily sit among the top destinations in Malaysia.