(NST) - Is Terengganu ready to welcome two million visitors as it ushers in Visit Terengganu Year 2008?
The launch of VTY 2008 at Taman Shah Bandar on Jan 1 is supposed to be a glittery affair but there are some sceptics who feel that it will just be another show.
"We are getting negative vibes because the information on what the state has to offer during the VTY 2008 is not flowing to the people. Only industry insiders know what is going on.
"The response from the smaller players is slow and they could lose a chance to cash in on the opportunities," said Datuk Nasir Ibrahim Fikri, state deputy chairman for Industrial Development and Tourism.
He said Terengganu was ready to become a major player in the tourism sector.
"The pace will be punishing next year and it will test the delivery system to the limit for the first time. The string of events throughout the year will put the organisers under pressure.
"A positive first impression is what we are aiming for and it will support our plans to promote and develop the tourism industry."
Asked if the state would be able to accommodate two million visitors when the available hotel rooms could only fill 7,000 guests at any one time, Nasir said: "Yes".
He said the hospitality industry was ready for the influx of visitors.
"We are talking about an average occupancy of 5,500 visitors a day for 365 days. If 20 per cent of the visitors are day trippers, we will have more than enough rooms.
"But we have to be realistic. There will be times when hotel rooms are fully booked.
"We expect that to happen when the Islamic Civilisation Park opens in late February.
"In May, we will have Sukma 2008. In November and December, we are hosting the World Endurance Race and the Monsoon Cup. In the past, hotels were fully booked during year-end school holidays."
Five new hotels, including one with a five-star rating, will be coming up next year.
Another growth contributor is the upgrading of the Sultan Mahmud Airport into an international airport. This is likely to bring 15 per cent more visitors.
Nasir said the tourism sector was expected to become a major contributor to the economy and its multiplier effect would benefit many sub-sectors, such as souvenir trade, tour guides, public transport and homestays.
"VTY 2008 will not be the first nor the last. Tourism is an ongoing trade and we will keep on improving as the years go by. We will listen to the critics and recommendations from industry players," Nasir added.
Kedah is also in full gear in its preparation for Visit Kedah Year 2008.
A quick survey by the New Straits Times yesterday revealed that tourists were already thronging the state.
Winnie Chew, 47, from Petaling Jaya, said that she could not wait to visit the state next year to coincide with VKY2008 as the school term would be starting soon.
"My family is on a four-day-three-night trip to Langkawi and we will be spending another day on the mainland."
Mazliana Tajol Azman, 17, said besides spending a week in Langkawi, the family, including her brother and parents, would stay a few nights on the mainland before returning home to Ipoh.
Zulkifli Teh, 41, who works for a tourism agency said he was optimistic about the promotions and 70 highlights planned for VKY 2008.
"Various activities have been planned to attract visitors to the state."
Meanwhile, state Tourism, Youth and Sports Committee chairman Datuk Othman Aziz said RM14 million had been spent on promoting the event.
He said the highlight of VKY 2008 would be in Langkawi where a calendar packed with information on events and activities would be distributed to tourists.
July and August would have the most events to commemorate Sultan of Kedah Sultan Abdul Halim Mu'adzman Shah's 50 years on the throne.