KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 20 — In the last five years, Melaka's tourism sector has boomed, prompting budget hotels, homestays, cafes and restaurants to mushroom.
In every corner of Jonker Walk, one can now find popular Nyonya delicacies, an abundance of cendol stalls, and everyone seems to have their own homemade pineapple tart recipe.
Souvenir shops have become permanent fixtures, always abuzz with visitors whatever day of the week.
All these, however, are at risk of disappearing, as the tourism sector took a huge hit from the Covid-19 pandemic and has yet to see promising recovery plans.
What the state really needs right now, said Kamil Hamzah, who has worked in the hotel industry in Melaka for the last 10 years, is a state leader who can “walk the talk”.
“People are tired of state politicians fighting for power.
“What we really need is help that reaches the ground, not just announcements in Parliament.
“Announcements in Parliament like Budget 2022 sound nice and promising, but is that help really reaching us?” he told Malay Mail when contacted.
Kamil added that he has yet to see major changes made for the state, especially for the hotel industry that is in dire need of a boost after having been out of commission for the last two years.
“If you remember, the hotels in heritage cities like Melaka and Penang collect a RM2 heritage fee.
“But do you see this fee being used? The drains are the same (dirty). The street lights are not working. The roads are still bad.
“The situation is even worse now, since the pandemic hit. We are still required to pay taxes, but cannot make enough to support the business. At the same time, we have to put up with a state that has a deteriorating infrastructure,” he said.
In the balance
Fellow Malaccan, Victor Low, who owns the popular Baba Low eatery located off Jalan Tengkera (or Tranquerah to those who still prefer to call it that), agreed, saying that the state needs a leader who practises an “all work, no drama” motto.
“We experienced a good chief minister in Adly (Pakatan Harapan's (PH) state chairman Adly Zahari).
“(He was) all work, no drama,” said Low when contacted.
For Low, he said whoever the next state leader is, he or she has to push for heritage zoning protection while ensuring the tourism industry maintains its momentum.
Currently, Low said there seems to be no such protection and indicated that the state is at risk of losing its heritage status should high-rise properties be approved.
“When tall buildings like condominiums and hotels get approved to be built beside heritage buildings, that's it,” he said.
All problems great and small
As an owner of several homestay properties in the state, Sia Gian Heung said the best way to experience Melaka is by staying in a traditional Peranakan townhouse.
“But at the moment, we are unsure of the future of tourism in Melaka due to the pandemic, and the state election is something that we do not need.
“For now, everything seems to look good, but the number of Covid-19 cases is rising.
“Instead of pouring money into the election, this fund could have been used to help locals get back on their feet after losing their businesses or jobs,” said Sia when contacted.
He also pointed out that the locals are exhausted from politicians' bickering.
“While they fight over the state, people on the ground like us are still suffering from post-pandemic effects — such as the loss of jobs and businesses closing down.
“There is so much that can be done to improve Melaka, even small things like parking problems and traffic congestion. All these contribute to a better tourism atmosphere in the state.
“But if you can't even perfect these small things, how can you focus on bigger problems?” he said.
The Melaka state election was triggered after four assemblymen pulled their support for chief minister Datuk Seri Sulaiman Md Ali last month.
Voters go to the polls today.