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UNESCO gives a new breed of life to tourism in Melaka

Since its inception in 2008 into UNESCO World Heritage List, tourism in Melaka (Malacca) has grown from strength to strength. A new record of 12.5 million visitors is expected this year.

MELAKA- In 2008, UNESCO chose to register both cities of Melaka and Georgetown (State of Penang) into the World Heritage List. Both cities were seen as lively historical testimonies of 500 years of trading and cultural exchanges between East and West in the Straits of Malacca. The UN agency for culture then acknowledged that few urban centres in Southeast Asia blended to intimately influences of Asia and Europe providing both towns with a specific multicultural heritage, both tangible and intangible. With its government buildings, churches, squares and fortifications, Melaka is a remarkable example of colonial architecture, which stretches back to the 15th-century Malay sultanate, continued with the Portuguese and Dutch presence from the early 16th century to finally become part of British Malaya before being part of the new independent Malaysia. UNESCO then helped Melaka to preserve and renovate its blend of Chinese, European and Malay architectures as well as preserving its peculiar way of life. Over the last five years, old houses along the River have been renovated, some transformed into trendy cafes, eateries and hotels. In the evening special lighting effects turn also the city into an attractive night destination.

Long considered as a sleepy outpost on the way from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore, Melaka is now reviving as tourists and domestic visitors rediscover the city since its UNESCO inception. In 2011, Melaka recorded its highest number of visitors ever at 12.165 million. They generated tourism revenues of RM 7.06 billion (US$ 2.2 billion). According to State Tourism, Culture and Heritage Committee chairman Datuk Wira Latiff Tamby Chik, growth in tourist arrivals was 17.5 per cent higher than in 2010. During the first four months of 2012, growth continued unabated. Melaka welcomed during that period 4.11 million, a further rise of 13.3 % over the same months of 2011. From this number, 2.92 million were domestic tourists while the rest were foreigners. Foreign arrivals grow faster than the domestic ones (37.3% versus 5.8%). The State government now believes that Melaka will welcome over 12.5 million visitors by year end.

According to report by the State Tourism Department, Melaka top five foreign country tourist arrivals were China with 222,999 tourists followed by Singapore (185,277), Indonesia (168,190), Taiwan (108,128) and Hong Kong (57,241). Most popular attractions to the area are museums (312,058 visitors) followed by the Malacca River Cruise (279,338 visitors), Malacca Zoo (176,943) and Menara Taming Sari (169,340).

A popular program in Melaka for foreign travellers is homestays with local people. Melaka offers 7 homestay programs officially registered with the Tourism Ministry. They welcomed last year 25,109 visitors, of which 8,883 were foreign guests.

Among the new initiatives launched towards for travellers is a new website called ‘Welcome to Melaka’. The site provides travellers with everything about Malaysia’s capital city of culture by sharing some of Melaka’s best addresses, providing also web-surfers with articles and even discounts to selected shops.

ANNEX: Historical chronology of Melaka

  • Late 14th century/early 15th century: Foundation of the city and the kingdom of Melaka. 
  • End of 15th century- Melaka Kingdom becomes a Muslim Sultanate and a centre of learning for Islam.
  • 1511- Portuguese conquered Melaka. Portuguese build a fortress. Within this, palaces for the governor and the bishop, five churches, two hospitals, a college and other public buildings were constructed. 
  • 1641- Dutch captured the city and confirm Melaka’s role as a trade centre iN Soputheast Asia. Catholic St. Peter’s Church was built in 1710 and the protestant Christ Church in 1753, the oldest protestant church in Malaysia and still in use.
  • In 1795-1818, Melaka came into British hands. 
  • In 1824, Melaka was finally brought under British administration.
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Luc Citrinot a French national is a freelance journalist and consultant in tourism and air transport with over 20 years experience. Based in Paris and Bangkok, he works for various travel and air transport trade publications in Europe and Asia.

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