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Tasik Kenyir's houseboat operators urge gov't to permit more operating licences

HULU TERENGGANU: The increasing number of tourists in Tasik Kenyir has led to a shortage of houseboats and operators are urging the authorities to lift the freeze on the construction of new houseboats.
The freeze imposed in 2008 was meant to control houseboat operations in the lake. To date, 80 houseboats are still active and the increase in the number of visitors has put pressure on them to reject bookings unless hirers were willing to wait for at least three months.
It was learnt all the houseboats have been booked nearly every day in September as visitors are taking advantage of the long school holidays and other public holidays throughout the month.
With the existing houseboats, operators can cater to about 1,500 people for a two-day, one-night trip or about 20,000 visitors in one month.
As Tasik Kenyir is now a duty-free area, visitors are required to be in the vicinity of the lake for at least 48 hours.
“The hotel at Pulau Poh near the entry point at Pengkalan Gawi will be completed next year. Even when it is completed, visitors, I believe will prefer to discover the interesting places in the lake in the comfort of houseboats,” said Mohd Salleh Hamid, 44, a houseboat operator.
The 250-room hotel at Pulau Poh, which costs RM100 million has the capacity for 1,000 guests and is expected to be ready for business by June next year.
Salleh said the government now has control over houseboat operations in Tasik Kenyir and the district office as well as the Central Terengganu Development authority have imposed stricter terms and conditions for the issuance of licences.
“If sanitation is the issue, then it will be much easier for them to impose the terms and conditions. I believe an additional 30 licences will be sufficient for the moment but more may be required when the main shopping area at Pulau Bayas becomes operational next year,” added Salleh.
He said that most of the existing houseboat operators have abided with the stricter terms and conditions, especially the installation of holding tanks to stop direct discharge of human excrement into the lake.
Meanwhile, Hulu Terengganu district officer Azmi Razik said the district office was processing three more applications for new houseboats which need to adhere to strict terms and conditions on sanitation and safety.
“We are in the process of fine tuning the terms and conditions on the issuance of new licences. This will take some time as we need to look at the current standard operating procedure and formulate a firmer SOP. We need to set higher standards before we totally lift the freeze.
“In the meantime, the district office is trying to promote homestays at villages along the route to Pangkalan Gawi. The official declaration on the free trade zone is an opportunity for villagers to promote local products,” he added.
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