Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Labuan tourism - Time to let it shine

IT HAS been almost three decades since Labuan was declared a Federal Territory, but the tourism potential of the island located off the northwest coast of Borneo has remained largely untapped.

However, things are set to change with Labuan being included in the Economic Transformation Programme for its oil and gas sector and the Labuan Corporation’s plan to form a committee called “Invest Labuan”.

This is to further boost Labuan’s status as a duty-free destination.

Already an International Offshore Financial Centre (IOFC), tourism is set to add another facet to the island’s economy.

The government is planing more people-centric projects for the Federal Territory of Labuan to spur the island’s economy and provide job opportunities for thousands of its residents.

The Pearl of Borneo, already known for its offshore financing facilities and oil and gas industry is poised to become a hub for tourism with emphasis on helping the locals promote their businesses.

Labuan MP Datuk Yussof Mahal said there are many potential investors who are keen on working in the various sectors to develop the tourism industry of the island as they see great potential in its natural resources and beauty.

Heaven on Earth

Pulau Papan, one of Labuan’s most beautiful islands, will soon be transformed into a lively place of fun and leisure as plans are in the pipeline to turn it into a multi-million ringgit resort akin to Singapore’s Sentosa Island.

According to Yussof, the government through Labuan Corporation, the local authority which administrates the Federal Territory of Labuan, is currently in talks with investors who are keen to develop the island into a resort.

“We have a few investors who are keen to develop the Pulau Papan’s marine parks and sea sports as well as constructing hotels to promote the area,’’ he said.

The island’s natural beauty is an attractive option for investors who can tap into the pristine environment offered by the island and the marine sport industry.

Pulau Papan is only a five-minute boat ride from Labuan and is the most developed of several islands near Labuan, with beautiful landscaping and an old colonial lighthouse adding to its charm.

The island has a mini agriculture park with an interesting collection of plant life from the region.

It is a popular weekend getaway for people from Brunei as well as locals who go there for trekking, picnics and snorkelling.

Chalets are available for rent, but tourists, especially foreigners, prefer to rough it out by camping on the beach.

Apart from Pulau Papan there are five other islands that make up the Federal Territory of Labuan.

Plans to upgrade the other islands and their beaches with facilities to attract visitors are also underway.

The other islands include Kuraman, Rusukan Besar and Rusukan Kecil.

Yussof added that, since Labuan is a duty-free zone, setting up duty-free shops could be one way to attract even more tourists.

Shopping haven

New shopping malls and hotels will also be coming up in Labuan in the near future.

Yussof said that a Brunei investor is keen on investing RM20mil to build a textile mall in Labuan.

“The land has already been indentifed for the mall and things are still in the prelimininary stages,” he said.

And with a few other projects planned, Labuan could soon become a landmark destination for vacations.

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