Sunday, August 04, 2013

Promoting Labuan as tourism hub

The island of Labuan boasts several tourist spots which are as popular as its free shops.

For starters, the War Cemetery is a must-visit with its war graves and memorials to the soldiers who died fighting the Japanese occupiers during World War II.

Among the fallen were British, Australian, Indian, Sarawakian, Bruneian, North Borneo and Empire troops.

There are more than 3,000 graves at the Ceremery and they are commemorated on Warriors Day each year.

Another place of interest is the Surrender Point on the beach where Lieutenant-General Masao Baba, commander of the 37th Japanese Southern Army, surrendered to Major General George F Wootten of the 9th Australian Division on Sept 9, 1945, marking the end of Japanese occupation in Sarawak and the then British North Borneo.

At the Memorial Park which faces the sea, visitors can picnic at a quiet spot with a seafront view.

The lovely beach and duty-free shopping for chocolates, liquor and cigarettes are also crowd pullers.

Soon, holiday makers may have good reason to stay overnight or even longer in Labuan as a new theme park is in the offing.

Peter Kong, proprietor of Billion Pavilion Hotel, is looking forward to setting up the park, preferably at a site where the facility can be expanded to utilise the island’s major resource — water.

He visualises the park in the mould of Sunway Lagoon — only better since Labuan has more natural advantages, among them the blue sea.

“I have been mulling this for a long time and I believe it is a doable project. The theme park will incorporate chalets and water sports such as jet skiing and kayaking, among others,” he said.

There will also be facilities for children to play in the water during family outings.

However, Kong pointed out that all these attractions could end up under-utilised if not fully promoted.

“We can start by making sure ferries coming to Labuan have good facilities. I’m thinking especially about the ferry terminal in Menumbok. It should be well-equipped to give travellers comfort and confidence.”

He said there should also be a shaded terminal which – apart from providing shelter from the sun and rain — could double as a complex with proper food outlets as well as lodging and related facilities.

“Sometimes when travellers are already within a gated area, it’s a hassle for them to go outside again just to eat at the nearby stalls,” he noted.

“They should be in a place with integrated facilities such as eateries, good toilets and a waiting area with proper seats. If possible, accommodation should also be provided for those who have to stay overnight at the terminal. It’s all very well for them to sleep in their cars but it’s certainly better if they have a proper place to stay.”

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