KUALA BERANG, Sept 4 — Lake Kenyir will continue to be a syariah-compliant tourism area, despite it being declared a duty-free zone, said Terengganu Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Razif Abd Rahman.
He said the decision, which may be regarded “not popular” by some, was necessary to protect the sensitivity of the people and religion.
“Let Terengganu be known for its Islamic tourism. We do not want Lake Kenyir to be like other places by promoting activities which are not syariah-compliant there.
“We have to admit that we have yet to be on par with Thailand or Indonesia in the tourism aspect, (but) there are guidelines on Islam which we have to observe in tourism,” he told Bernama here.
He said his aim was to see Lake Kenyir become a tourism destination for Muslims in the world.
“It is not easy to do. It takes time, but I believe, it can be achieved if all quarters work together to ensure Lake Kenyir gets into the world tourism map.
“The discovery of the Batu Bersurat (Terengganu Inscription Stone) in Kuala Berang, which is proof of the early Islamic civilisation, in Lake Kenyir (area) can be used to attract Muslim tourists,” he said.
Ahmad Razif said the history of Lake Kenyir becoming a duty-free zone started on December 14, 2015 with the move being approved by the Finance Ministry, following which the Central Terengganu Development Authority (KETENGAH) as the authority in charge.
Lake Kenyir was gazetted a duty-free zone on January 27 this year. It involves an area covering 65,650 hectares of lake, 339 islands and Pengkalan Gawi.
He said the Kenyir Lake duty-free zone would complement existing tourism attractions in the area, such as the Kenyir Island Hopping (KlH), Kelah Sanctuary, Kenyir Elephant Conservation Village (KECV).
The Terengganu government is targeting to get 750,000 tourist arrivals to the state this year, with 269,512 tourist arrivals recorded as on June, which is 8.32 per cent more than the tourist arrivals recorded during the corresponding period last year, which was 247,089.
“What is important is to provide infrastructure and basic facilities and first-class service by local traders and residents. If this can be done, Lake Kenyir will be known worldwide,” he said.
Meanwhile, Lake Kenyir Tourism Association chairman Mohammad Raffee Abdul Wahab said the association was still awaiting decision from the Customs Department on the implementation or criteria for tourists wanting to stay in boat houses.
“Before Lake Kenyir was declared a duty-free zone, the response (to stay in boat house) had been encouraging. We are optimistic of higher demand for boat houses as tourists come not just to shop. They also want to experience the life,” he said.
An owner of the Ratu Kenyir Boat House, Salfuan Sani Abdullah, 38, said she expected an increase of 30 per cent in booking until end of this year.
“Tourists who come here may spend half a day shopping, and for the rest of their stay here, they enjoy the beauty of Lake Kenyir by taking the boat house,” she said. — Bernama