Response to Let’s do more for tourism in JB
I agree, JB has much to offer tourists and room to improve. Making locations like Jalan Tan Hiok Nee attractive to tourists is important. That location can provide a distinctive JB feel (not just one of 1,000+ malls all over SE Asia that really are all basically the same). Peppering it with small shops and art galleries and food and museum and street art is great.
And obviously what is desired is a nice walkable place that has history. JB is trying to do the same with the new “riverwalk.” But if you then allow people to park cars and motorcycles and vendors to block the sidewalk you severely degrade the user experience. You can retain those that hate malls and will put up with anything to avoid malls. But if people can’t walk without dodging all sorts of obstacles they will just go to malls and go to other cities. They won’t tell their friends about this nice old town they should visit.
Building up tourism often doesn’t take very brilliant ideas. What it does take is attention to detail; and continued effort to create a great experience. You see wonderful drawing of what new developments will be they always have people walking on clear sidewalks. Then go walk around downtown JB and you will find sidewalks are often blocked. Still JB is much better in this aspect than Penang. A big reason I decided not to live in Penang is you couldn’t walk around with ease.
Patience and a desire to make an effort to follow up and keep streets walkable is something most locations don’t have. And it is one big reason malls do well, they make it easy for people to walk around (though actually KSL mall has jammed in so many vendors in some narrow locations they even mess up walking inside a mall which is not easy to mess up). But if JB (or other locations) pay attention to making the experience enjoyable for tourists they will benefit.
The current economic conditions make tourism even more important for Malaysia. Tourists bring in foreign currency, buying the Malaysian Ringitt (and thus supporting the currency which has been getting crushed).
Related: The Present and Future of Iskandar – Salahuddin Bakery on Jalan Tan Hiok Nee – Urban planning for walkable communities – Elevated Bicycle Circle: Innovation in Urban Transportation
Make Malaysia My 2nd Home (MM2H) is the program started by Malaysia in 2002 to encourage expats to stay in Malaysia by offering a long term (10 year) visa. The MM2H program is a very good idea to aid economic development in my opinion. It brings in foreign currency which is very useful: both from fixed deposits and spending by expats.
The currency help is especially helpful right now. The Malaysian Ringitt has collapsed in the last few months to just 3.57 MYR to the US $ now. It was stable at about 3 a couple years ago and slowly declined to 3.3 over a couple years before the recent collapse. The collapse is due to high government and consumer debt in Malaysia and the recent collapse of oil prices. Malaysia was running up large debts even when oil prices were high and the danger of doing so has come home to roost.
The MM2H program targets retirees and future retires and provides a relatively small but still consistent and useful inflow of hard currency which helps support the Ringitt (the recent collapse would be even worse without this support).
Since the program was started in 2002, 27,000 expats have been approved.
*data for 2014 is for 11 months, through November 2014.
China participation has exploded to 40% of the total in the last 2 years. From 2002 through 2012 China was granted 18% of MM2H visas.
It appears likely 2014 will finish with the 3rd largest number of MM2H visa granted just behind 2013 and 2012.
North America had 75 in 2014 and 1,017 total. South America has just 24 total. Africa had 31 in 2014 and 318 total while Oceana (which includes Australia and New Zealand) had 52 in 2014 and 743 total. Europe overall had 194 in 2014 and 3,553 total while Asia had 2,500 in 2014 and 21,212 total (which is 79% of all MM2H visas).
Related: Make Malaysia My 2nd Home (MM2H) Statistics (2012) – Looking at the Malaysian Economy (2013) – Iskandar Housing, Real Estate Investment Considerations