The state government's efforts in beautifying and conserving the former
Vietnamese refugee centre in Pulau Bidong has led to an increase in
Vietnamese tourists to Terengganu.
Last year, a little
over 400 Vietnamese tourists arrived here, but so far this year, more
than 500 have visited the state, mainly to see the place where
Vietnamese boatpeople were sheltered.
Alex Lee, managing director of Ping Anchorage, a tour operator, said he
was expecting about 700 next year.
He said the conservation efforts at Pulau Bidong had been spread by word
of mouth among the Vietnamese boat- people, of who there are an
estimated three million.
Some of the boatpeople fled to Terengganu after the fall of Saigon in
1975 and settled on the 250ha island, which was dubbed "Little Saigon".
It is estimated that
about 250,000 Vietnamese lived on the island in a 16-year period.
The settlement was closed in 1991 after the majority of the Vietnamese
there either returned to their country or migrated elsewhere.
Remnants of their settlement still remain on the island which the state
government has since declared a heritage island.
And because of that, more Vietnamese tourists from Europe, Australia and
the United States are flocking to Terengganu.
The other reason for the increase of tourists is also related to efforts
by the late Alcoh Wong, a local historian who embarked on a Vietnamese
grave-identifying and beautifying project a decade ago.
The project was conducted throughout the peninsula.
"The Vietnamese boatpeople are very happy with the steps taken by the
"They come to Terengganu specifically for Pulau Bidong, and spend two
weeks in Malaysia, with six days spent in the state.
"Tour operators should promote Pulau Bidong to the Vietnamese market,
keeping in mind that many wish to come back," said Lee.
He said of late, chalet operators from neighbouring islands had brought
their guests to Pulau Bidong for snorkelling and diving sessions.