Pangkor in the Malaysian state of Perak has been popular with out-of-state visitors especially with those from the Klang Valley, but access to the resort island has always limited the destination from reaching its full potential.
A string of new and upcoming developments, however, might see things changing for the better for the 18-square-kilometre island.
The reopening of Pangkor Airport, which can only receive smaller planes until its closure in 2014, is watched with much anticipation. New airline operator SKS Airways was set to operate its inaugural flight to the island from Subang on 1 October 2019 but reportedly had to wait for safety and technical inspections to be carried out. A second attempt to reopen the facility on 15 September has also been postponed, now shifted tentatively to October.
Pangkor also received this duty-free status earlier this year on 1 January, although currently only chocolate is available on the shopping list. Cigarettes and liquor might gradually be included too as more items are added to the duty-free list in ages.
But Pangkor's newly minted duty-free status, together with SKS Airways' Pangkor flights on its 19-seater Twin Otter propeller-plane, will potentially scale up tourism prospects for the island, according to GOTZ Travel and Tours managing director, Sheikh Awadh Sheik Abdullah.
“[This flight] saves a lot on travelling time. Though it might be a bit more expensive, but the middle-class and above markets would prefer that [over driving]. The duty-free status will help boost the economic growth of the island too,” he explained.
Visitors to Pangkor typically drive to the jetty at Lumut - from Kuala Lumpur, it takes about three hours - followed by a ferry ride of up to 45 minutes to reach the island, with options to get off at the SPK Jetty or the Pangkor Town Jetty.
The upcoming developments on Pangkor will also spell an opportunity for the destination to step up its destination image beyond that of the famed Pangkor Laut Resort, which to date is what most people associate Pangkor with. The resort, operated by YTL Group, sits on a private island and has its own separate ferry terminal and private service.
For the well-heeled, the newly reclaimed private Marina Island has a resort and water park, while there are varied accommodation options, from budget hotels to four-star resorts on Pangkor Island. It's also possible to stay the night at the nearby Lumut or Setiawan towns, from which day trips to Pangkor are easily accessible.
The island has plenty of activities like kayaking, snorkelling and even diving opportunities around its calm and shallow waters, while affordable seafood dining and traditional boat-building heritage are some of the Pangkor's key attractions.