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KUALA TERENGGANU: Terengganu expects to see five million tourist arrivals this year with a better image branding of its natural resources.

Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Razif Abdul Rahman said the confidence was fuelled from positive statistics for the past three years.

In 2012, he said, there were 3.378 million tourists recorded, followed by an increase of 19.57 per cent of 4.037 million tourists arrivals in 2013 and an increase of 11.9 per cent of 4.517 million last year.

"Even the income generated from the tourism industry as well as other tourism supporting industries shows promising figures. By the year's end, we expect to generate up to RM4.7 billion, better than last year's RM4.520 billion, despite the volatile world economy.

"This is in comparison to the RM3.336 billion recorded in 2012 that rose by 30 per cent to RM4.361 billion in 2013," he said at the close of the Terengganu International Candat Sotong (squid jigging) Festival 2015 at the Duyong Marina Resort.

His speech was read by state tourism, culture, communictions and multimedia committee chairman Datuk Mohd Jidin Shafee.

Ahmad Razif said that the squid jigging festival, into its second year, was a catalyst to further potray the diverse clusters of Terengganu's tourism treasures.

"These are the priceless assets that will guarantee the state's future socio-economic stability. While other assets will deplete in the near future, tourism will thrive, as long as we put out efforts in its conservation and make it sustainable.

"There is no reason for tourists not to come and enjoy this beautiful state and culture," he said.

Ahmad Razif added that the festival was poised to garner more opportunities, besides raising awareness and changing the paradigms towards appreciating tourists, whose spending brought great benefit to the local community.

Meanwhile, Mohd Jidin said that next year's squid jigging festival would be expanded to include two events off islands and one off the mainland.

"We also want particiapnts to stay overnight at Tasik Kenyir to fully experience and appreciate the facilities like the ikan kelah sanctuary, caves, elephant park, birdwatching and other environmental attractions.

"Not to forget is the Setiu wetlands for picking up clams," he said.

Mohd Jidin added that the jetties for the festival would be upgraded owing to demand for tourism, while squid cultivation and breeding would be enhanced as Terengganu was fast becoming an international location for the jigging.

"Similary, we want to enhance cultivation and breeding for turtles, so that their eggs are preserved for multiplication of the species which are under threat by the pukat tunda (trawler) fishermen who are damaging the ecosystem," he said, adding it depleted squid and turtles in the South China Sea.

On another note, Mohd Jidin said the city's famous Pasar Payang would be demolished to make way for a new complex at the existing site as the old structure were declared unsafe for occupation by the Public Works Department.

"We have had discussions and the feedback is for a new one to be built. We plan to house the traders at Pulau Pasir while awaiting the construction of the new market complex by next year.," said Mohd Jidin.

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