MELAKA may be a small state but it is immense in stature. The state is rich in history and popular for its food, among other things.
To start with, it has the Stadthuys building in Bandar Hilir, which is the official settlement of the Dutch governor built in 1650. The building, also known as the Red Square by the locals, is now a museum complex. It comprises Museum of History and Ethnography, the Admiral Cheng Ho Gallery, Melaka Literature Museum and Democratic Government Museum.
There is also Bukit St Paul (or Bukit Melaka) which is very popular among locals and tourists. This was the location of the Sultan Melaka Palace before the Portuguese invasion in 1511.
Other attractions in Bandar Hilir include the Museum of the Ocean, or better known as the Ship Museum by village folks. The museum is a replica of the Portuguese Flor de La Mar ship which sank in the Straits of Malacca in 1511.
And, of course, Bandar Hilir has the famous Jonker Street — the centre street of Chinatown — which was once renowned for its antique shops. Today Jonker Street is about clothing, craft, food, entertainment and much more than that.
For a night’s stay or more, there are a few luxurious hotels with impressive Mediterranean or modern structures of Peranakan-themed designs. There is something for everybody, so it won’t necessarily burn a hole in your pocket.
EXPLOSIVE TOURISM GROWTH
Melaka received 16.7 million tourists last year, which was the highest for the state, with the majority from China, Singapore, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Over the next five to 10 years, the numbers are expected to grow significantly thanks to a massive integrated mixed development by, among others, Singapore-listed Hatten Land Ltd.
The Singapore group is developing Hatten City on reclaimed land, and only a fraction has been developed with more than 10 years of development work to go.
The multi-billion ringgit development is within a walking distance to many historical sites in Melaka, a UNESCO certified World Heritage City.
Hatten City will change the skyline of Bandar Hilir dramatically with its six unique themed developments — retail, residences, international hotels, office towers, resorts and shoplex — with an aggregate gross floor area of 9.6 million sq ft.
Phase 1, with an estimated gross development value (GDV) of RM2.05 billion has been developed. It comprises Elements Mall, SilverScape Residences, Hatten Place and DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Melaka.
Phase 2, with a GDV of RM1.16 billion, consists of Imperio Mall and Imperio Residence, which is under construction.
Hatten Land is also developing the RM1.8 billion Harbour City, which comprises Harbour City Mall, a water theme park and three hotel blocks.
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Melaka general manager Herman Courbois said the tourism market in the state is growing.
He expects the tourism industry to perform better once Elements Mall is fully occupied and Imperio Mall is completed.
“Hatten Group expects the take-up rate for Elements Mall, which opened only a few months ago to reach, 60 to 70 per cent by year-end.
“Imperio Mall will open next year and will house luxury local and international brands. That will bring a whole new market here from the regulars who come here now,” Courbois told NST Property.
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Melaka was opened in December last year and has garnered an average occupancy of 50 to 60 per cent, he said.
Courbois said the aim is to achieve average occupancy of 60 per cent in its first year of operations and he is bullish that will be achieved.
“People have asked us why are we here, why we built a hotel in this area and what do we want to do here. At this moment, there is not much to do yet but don’t forget we are just five-minute away to the big town and to Hattan Square. The Portugues Settlement is about 2-3km away.
“Melaka is also among the top three states in Malaysia that offer the best healthcare and personal care services, besides having a vast prospect in the medical tourism industry.
“This area where we are located is development or work in progress. I believe in the next five to 10 years, the whole skyline here will be totally different... so, we have come in at the right time.
“You can already see developments are happening in this area. here is Impression City, which encompasses Impression Melaka theatre. Pulau Melaka is nearby. At the moment it is a very quiet place but in the future, there could be some developments there,” he said.
Courbois said Hatten Land is also developing Satori, Melaka’s first wellness-themed integrated development comprising a mall, hotel and serviced residences, and Harbour City, which will feature Harbour City Mall, a water-theme park and three hotel blocks.
READY FOR LUXURY BRANDS
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Melaka’s room sales have been above expectations, Courbois said.
“The market was really looking into a real international brand. Don’t get me wrong, being in the city of Melaka, there are lots of local hotels. The market was looking for something different. In the beginning people were a bit reluctant and a bit afraid of the brands which, to them, look prestigious and expensive... that is the reason we came in with a DoubleTree. A DoubleTree is a bit more relaxed and local.
“We have the biggest rooms (40 sq m) and the biggest ballroom without pillars in Melaka. The entry level for the 40 sq m room, our rack rate is RM650 a night,” he said.
Courbois said occupancy and average room rates for hoteliers in Melaka have remained stable in the last few years and could pick up after the opening of Imperio Mall, with luxury brands and other tourism projects by Hatten Land.
“Weekends are very busy here. People spend either a day or at least one night in Melaka because there is nothing much you can do except for eating and visiting a few museums.
“Melaka really needs to start inventing and creating tourism products so that people will spend more nights here,” he said.
BRINGING MEDICAL TOURISM TO MELAKA
Malaysia is one of the top destinations for medical tourism, and Melaka is already heading in that direction, said Courbois.
In medical tourism, people from one country travel to another to seek medical treatments and surgical care. Among the most sought-after treatments are health screenings, cardiology, orthopaedics, neurology, oncology, dentistry, cosmetic surgery and in-vitro fertilisation (IVF). These are attracting higher-end tourists from developed and developing nations.
In 2016, more than 860,000 medical tourists sought treatment in Malaysia, generating RM1 billion revenue for the country. The target is to grow this to 30 per cent year-on-year.
Malaysia started to focus on medical tourism in the wake of the Asian financial crisis in 1997 as a tool for economic diversification in the healthcare and tourism industries.
In 2009, the Health Ministry set up the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC) to serve as the primary agency to promote and develop the country’s medical tourism. MHTC is collaborating with medical providers from the Peninsular Malaysia to promote global awareness on the country’s world-class healthcare services.
Foreign patients come here to seek quality treatment at an affordable cost. It was reported that on average they would spend about RM1,000 in medical fee per visit, not including other expenditures.
“In Melaka, there are several hospitals that offer medical tourism facilities and their main market is Indonesia. So, there is a lot of growth potential for both the hospitals and the hotel industry. We have to offer the best hospitality service. I believe the opening of our hotel here is very timely,” he said.