TRAVELLER’S TALE: Opportunity in wellness tourism

RECENTLY, I had a very interesting conversation with a colleague who was fascinated by wellness and therapy. I told her that I would have been a successful entrepreneur by now if I had pursued my business dream of supplying ayurveda wellness products like turmeric-based bath soap and lotions. These were the trends in early 1990s which I discovered when attending and promoting Malaysia in the Tourism Expo in New Delhi, India in early 1995. Though it remains a dream, I am happy that the wellness sector is now a fast growing sector, along with Health and Medical Tourism in Malaysia.

In 2006, Tourism Malaysia London and Malaysia Airlines collaborated with Pangkor Laut Resort to promote a spa at the Urban Retreat Harrods to potential tourists. It was fully booked.

Such an exclusive promotion gives you the understanding of how competitive the business is. In this case, we must make the distinction between well organised wellness centres staffed by trained therapists who are governed by industry ethics and etiquette, and streetside massage and reflexology outlets which may have questionable quality of service, safety and cultural boundary procedures.

Health and wellness have become such norms that almost every hotel has a spa centre. In fact, it is something that we see being practised even in the confines of our homes and offices through the use of portable devices and therapeutic and aromatic essential oils and remedies.

After attending a health retreat last year, it took me a while to resume the exercises as taught by the facilitator. It is true what they say about the need to be patient and persistent in our fitness habits for at least six months; otherwise we will just give up. It is a shame to see under-used fitness centres and facilities in some hotels and premises. The Fit Malaysia Programme and the recent National Sports Day may very well change the public’s attitude towards sports and fitness.

Perhaps the cost of fitness equipment and programmes should be made affordable to all. This may not only help the fitness industry progress but also related sectors like tourism and travel.


Early this month, on the way to Universiti Utara Malaysia in Sintok, Kedah for Discover UUM 2016, I stopped in Gopeng for a late breakfast at Chapati Corner, at the junction of the old roads to Kampar, Ipoh and Gopeng.

There are several other chapati restaurants nearby, signalling just how big the business is here.

In a relaxed setting surrounded by trees, we ate chapatti with mutton curry and teh tarik. I met the owner, Encik Yazid, who said that although the main menu is chapatti, he also offers biryani.

My visit to the university, which is also known as University In A Green Forest, was to sample its Discover UUM package. It is an affordable yet experiential education tourism product for locals, students and tourists.

I started my product update with a short golf game at the UUM Golf Course which was part of the National Golf Academy. In the evening, I went to Varsity Mall, which had just opened. UUM is a beautiful campus that provides knowledge and skills to both locals and foreign students. Such a lovely academic setting, no doubt, contributes to the whole learning experience.

The next day, I visited Anjung Tetamu (Welcome Plaza) where I was given a thorough briefing by a staff member on the background of its establishment and its founding figures who included the late Prof Tan Sri Dr Awang Had Salleh, its first vice chancellor.

She also explained about the specialty of sintok tree and fruit. We visited Sungai Sintok, the ostrich farm and the equestrian centre. The main highlight was Tiga Beradik.

In the evening, at the invitation of vice chancellor Prof Datuk Seri Dr Mohammad Mustafa Ishak, I attended the 2nd Asian Youth Indie Film Festival. It was officiated by Datuk Dr Mary Yap, the deputy minister of Higher Education. We talked about promoting local universities as a new tourism product and attraction, as what top universities in the world do.

Our universities, many of which are in strategic places, have unique tourism propositions. I have written several articles about this in particular about University Malaysia Perlis and University Sains Malaysia.

I also met Tan Sri Johan Jaafar who spoke highly about the new challenges and trends in journalism, KPJ chairman Tan Sri Aisah and Exco member Datuk Tajul Tulus. Such meetings enrich my knowledge of both the academic and the professional worlds and bridges the gap of opportunity.

Source : New Straits Times Online

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