Familiarising oneself by exploring a new environment is a common method when one is a stranger to an area. In the tourism industry, organising familiarisation trips under industry experts is a productive strategy of getting to know the locality and locals, what the place offers, and any other existing factors whether natural or man-made.
Lenggong Valley, with a quaint rural town located in Hulu Perak, is surrounded by pristine greens and more interestingly many important archaeological discoveries amidst its many limestone hills and caves. This ‘open-air museum’ has in fact been international recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2012. Despite its natural attractions, the valley itself is under the radar for leisure travellers.
Nonetheless, Lenggong is no-where limited to just its natural geographical features and historic discoveries. Due to its rural nature, kampungs or villages are still present and thriving for culture and leisure travellers to take advantage of.
From the 5th to the 8th of March, 2021, a 4-day 3-night familiarisation trip was made to the Lenggong Valley comprising industry experts as an effort to revive and develop its tourism industry. The trip was conducted and attended by tourism experts consisting of twelve participants of varied backgrounds. Among them included people from travel agencies, academia (HELP university), tourist guides, media practitioners, and even corporate entities. The wide range of expertise of these twelve participants promoted a great exchange of opinions and overall productive strategies on how to support the revival and development of Lenggong’s tourism during and beyond the pandemic.
The goal for this trip was to identify diverse potential packages that can be created together with local tourism practitioners.
Excursion Promotes Connectivity with Locals
The expertise of the industry players in the familiarisation trip has successfully been utilised to achieve their goal upon conducting site visits and surveys of the local potentials.
The various packages and local operators or collaborators that the team identified has indeed helped in establishing tourism connections within the Lenggong community. Based on their encounters, many were able to come into agreement that a new gastronomy approach can also be considered as a complementary attraction factor for Lenggong’s tourism activities.
The brainstorming sessions with industry experts has resulted in connecting even tourist operators with one another, particularly on Masbro’s Hidden Village’s ‘Voice of Nature’ event where there was an established agreement with the operator owner, local food caterer, and local souvenir provider. This event, which was eventually held on 9th of April in collaboration with legendary singer Fredo Flybaits, proved to be successful as the show also generated a networking night amongst industry experts.
Live Digital Approach Expands Lenggong’s Outreach
Due to the limitations presented by the pandemic and travellers’ inability to move around Malaysia, a virtual talk show series called Let’s Talk About Lenggong (LTAL) was created under Tourism Productivity Nexus’ initiative to highlight tourism players and attraction sites in Lenngong. promote all the area’s tourist operators he came in contact with. As of July, the series has already featured 20 operators from all around Lenggong. This is evident with the number of participants of the Zoom sessions where tourism operators and industry experts as well as the public would attend the show to learn about new information and establish connections. Bicara Bersama Atika & Nadge, another popular talk show series has also hosted several Lenggong operators as another avenue of opportunity for the operators to showcase their attractions.
Currently, many of these operators are fairly active in digital spaces such as on Facebook or Instagram to continuously promote their businesses, special promotions, and even any improvement projects they’re undertaking. From the social media presence alone, it has highlighted how productive these operators are in preparation of welcoming old and new guests once the pandemic is over.
What Packages Were Identified to Be Marketed?
The team began its familiarisation trip by exploring the reason why the Lenggong Valley managed to receive the UNESCO title. By participating in a 2-day 1-night archaeological expedition led by Mazlan Mahmud, which was indeed eye-opening, they were able to create a combination package a la UNESCO World Heritage Expedition which entails a combination of archaeological-cultural packages with the promotional help of members of the media and travel agencies to carry out their role to promote and mutually benefit from the packages.
Related to this is to tap into the rural and adventure sides that the valley has to offer. With these, the team identified at least three new packages which have the potential to work well within the overall tourism market. Among these packages include the one named Mini Amazon, a kayaking experience within the valley’s very own ‘Amazonian’ rainforests by Roslan Ahmad, and a unique motivational camp called Tactical Commando Experience at Amazing Legacy Camp by Datuk Rashid, who is a veteran of Malaysia’s historic Very Able Troopers (VAT 69).
Another experiential package that the tourism operators have identified is “MyKP” (My Komuniti Perikanan or ‘My Fishing Community’) where guests will have a hand in ‘fishing tourism’ through adventurous fish-catching experiences in the true fisherman’s way. This is an effort by the team to help the local river or lake fishermen community, where the experience will include highlighting traditions used such as bubu, a type of traditional fishing trap made of bamboo stalks.
Not only that, but another great potential product is when the team visited Aki’s Gallery tended by the owner himself, Haji Lukhman. This traditional house cum gallery showcases a wealth of antique items unique to Malay culture or items of yesteryear, which are either owned by him or generously donated by other locals. Introducing ‘1001 stories’ at Aki’s Gallery will be, for now during the pandemic, digital story-telling sessions as a way to create ‘souvenir memories’ based on his choice of artefacts.
Aside from identifying potential packages to be marketed to the public, the team also identified local players to participate in the packages that the team is planning on. This involves gastronomy or catering, transport, accommodation, and also any other local experiential packages that can be offered when taking the desires of travellers into account. A great existing example of this is Lenggong’s now-famous Rumah Tiang 16.
For gastronomy, the team has narrowed down to Experiencing Kampung Lifestyle at Kg. Chepor by Dangau Mak Ani where guests will have the opportunity to try out authentic local food items such as Cendol Sagu Rumbia, and local kuih-muih snacks in a kampung setting. Another experiential gastronomy package that can be promoted in the Lenggong Valley also includes the fishermen’s village at Kampung Beng, where the team had a home-made food experience with local fish and was also introduced to locally-brewed tapai, which is a traditional fermented preparation of glutinous rice as a snack or dessert. Another new experience under gastronomy was also identified where visitors will be able to have breakfast or lunch using mangkuk tingkat or tiffin carriers to eat by the river hosted by Camp Site Riverine Nature in Kampung Sumpitan.
Another notable part of the familiarisation trip was surveying potential filming sites around the valley for production companies. While this is certainly a novel approach for the valley, don’t forget that movies such as Anna and The King shot a few scenes by Lenggong’s scenic Tasik Raban, while Petronas’ most anticipated advertisement for Hari Raya was also shot around the Lenggong village community. This form of production tourism is certainly an exciting avenue the valley can explore.
Being Under the Radar Affects Lenggong’s Local Economy
Lenggong Valley, despite nominally being on the international map due to its UNESCO status, still suffers from a lack of exposure. Compared to its other UNESCO-inscribed counterparts such as Mount Kinabalu, Mulu and what more Melaka and Penang, the town presently lacks the basic pull factors such as the attractiveness of particular natural landmarks or historical monuments around town that can be positively exploited and promoted to tourists.
Also, its geographical position as an out-of-the-way rural town in hinterland Perak coupled with being an ‘open-air historical museum’ that may only appeal to those with niche interests has resulted in a lack of awareness of this actually lovely town from the public eye. Many travellers would often prefer ‘ready and trendy’ spots with man-made heritage landmarks as opposed to places that are not ‘media-sexy’.
These have made it hard for the Lenggong Valley to be better recognised as opposed to the established cities of Malacca and Penang, with their well-documented heritage and all manner of facilities.
Nonetheless, why not think out of the box and instead use Lenggong’s pristine nature with its own uniquely historic archaeological discoveries and cultural heritage as a way to attract those who are looking for unspoilt and even ‘unknown’ and ‘off the beaten path’ spots with its own authentic attractions!? Surely there’s a market for these among intrepid travellers and adventure seekers! That’s something for all parties to work on.
To watch Let’s Talk About Lenggong where you will have the opportunity to learn more about these operators, head on over to https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7rICDnK2Gnx6kBIXC95ZSg.