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Langkawi most suitable site for Malaysia’s first Geopark

Langkawi is the most suitable site for declaration as Malaysia’s first geopark in line with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (UNESCO) geopark concept, a UKM don said today.

Prof Datuk Dr Abdul Samad Hadi, deputy vice-chancellor of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, said part of the treasure trove of nature that was Langkawi should be preserved.

All the criteria to nominate Langkawi as a geopark were there and all that was it needed to make the bid a success was an integrated effort by all the parties concerned, he told reporters after the launch of an exhibition and a book, “Warisan Geologi Malaysia”, here.

A geopark is a designated area with several geological heritage sites containing valuable archaeological, ecological, historical and cultural resources.

It is not only suitable for scientific research but also for geo-tourism activities and can introduce a new economic source for the country.

Earlier, in his speech, Dr Abdul Samad said the discoveries made from several years of research in Langkawi should be preserved so that irresponsible parties did not smuggle out the valuable items which had a big market outside.

He said the researchers has taken time to announce their discoveries for fear of losing this invaluable heritage.

Several items displayed at in the exhbition showed that Langkawi had been in existence for 500 million years and is a veritable treasure chest of continuous historical records on the evolution of the earth in Malaysia from the Cambrian Age ( 520 million years ago) to the Jurassic Age 190 million years ago.

Fossils of the Brachiopod, a group of molluscs that emerged in the Paleozoic Age (500 million years ago) and became extinct at the end of the of the Permafrost Age (245 million years ago), found in Kilim, Durian Perangin, Batu Asah and the northern part of Pulau Singa Besar here had similiarities with the Brachiopod fauna from the fringe of the Gondwanaland sub-continent (Langkawi was at that time located in the southern hemisphere). This showed that Langkawi had a cold climate during that age.

Meanwhile, Langkawi Development Authority (LADA) general manager Datuk Zainal Karib Abdul Rahim said efforts to make Langkawi a geopark could start now with cooperation from all the relevant departments and agencies, including the Wildlife and National Parks Department, Environment and Development Institute, UKM and the Museums and Antiquities Department.

He said the geopark concept was introduced by Unesco in 1994 as an addition to its UNESCO World Heritage Site initiative.

Unesco hoped to set up 500 geoparks worldwide by selecting 20 sites as geoparks a year, he said.

He added that the effort would indirectly raise Langkawi’s status as an excellent nature tourism destination in the region.

German tourism traffic to Malaysia rises

Notwithstanding the high-pitched publicity in the German media about the plight of German and other Western hostages kidnapped from the Malaysian diving resort of Sipadan and held by Filipino rebels at Jolo Island, tourism traffic from Germany to Malaysia actually posted an impressive 70 percent growth in the first six months of this year.

There were 51,227 arrivals, up from 29,591 arrivals in the same period last year, said M.D. Razali, the director of the Frankfurt-based Malaysian Tourism Promotion Board.

Describing the surge in German tourist arrivals in Malaysia as a “dramatic increase”, Razali was upbeat about the future growth in tourist traffic from Germany.

According to Razali, the definition of a tourist is “anyone visiting Malaysia for a period of at least 24 hours and staying overnight in the country”.

Razali said that this “unprecedented increase” in tourist arrivals is a reflection of a “sense of awakening” among Germans about Malaysia as an ideal destination for both leisure and business travellers, and is characterised by a strong confidence and interest in Malaysia among members of the travel trade and the consumers alike.

Admitting that the cumulative figure of German arrivals was quite small, Razali said: “We are very confident that as a potential destination, there is unlimited opportunity for further growth.The launch of the campaign ‘Malaysia – Truly Asia’ is expected to further stimulate interest among prospective German travellers to visit Malaysia.”

Asian tourism promotion offices in Frankfurt aggressively court German tourists who have in the past ruled supreme as “world champions” in foreign tourism spending.

Although they have been overtaken by Americans, German tourists still spend a lot of money on foreign travel and tourism.

According Tourism Malaysia, the 43,341 German tourists who visited Malaysia last year spent an average of RM215.2 per day for an average length of stay of 9.6 days. However, they spent an average per capita of RM2,073.8 per trip.

German tourists visiting Malaysia have shown keen interest in cultural tourism, and have a fondness for sandy, clean beaches with plenty of sunshine.

“The Sipadan beach resort with its excellent scuba diving facilities was seen as an ideal holiday resort for Germans until the recent incident (kidnapping of German tourists by Philippine Muslim rebels)… however, Malaysia has other attractive holiday resorts in Penang and elsewhere that can be appealing to Germans,” says a Berlin-based German tour operator who prefers to remain anonymous.

A German family of three were among 21 persons kidnapped from Sipadan on April 23. Fifteen of them, including two of the Germans, have since been released.

Those still in the hands of the kidnappers are a German, three Frenchmen and two Finns.