Chief Executive Officer of Langkawi Development Authority (LADA)

The career path of Tuan Nasaruddin Abdul Muttalib, who hails from Bagan Datuk, Perak, saw him serving in ministries such as the Ministry of Primary Industries (now known as the Ministry of Plantation Industries) and the Ministry of Finance (MoF). When he was with the National Population and Family Development Board (LPPKN), this came under the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development’s purview. The 54-year-old civil servant has also worked with the Selangor and Perlis state governments before his appointment with LADA on 20 May 2021. A Universiti Sains Malaysia graduate who majored in marketing management, Nasaruddin also holds a diploma in public administration from the National Institute of Public Administration and a Master of Business Administration from Waseda University in Tokyo.

Please share how your previous positions have equipped you for your current role?
My past 27 years of helming various positions in the government service have not only exposed me to many enriching challenges but also enabled me to meet people from all walks of life, thus creating a strong and vast network of contacts for me. Prior to joining LADA, I was Perlis Financial Officer for five years, managing the state’s annual budget involving its development expenditure and cash flow management. The number crunching moulded the analytical and methodical thinking of my left brain.

A more intuitive and subjective thinking within me as a right-brained person was cast when I was LPPKN Deputy Director- General, focusing on family and social development matters as well as social entrepreneurship.

During my MoF posting at the National Strategic Unit dealing with National Blue Ocean Initiatives and engaging with diverse stakeholders, I learnt that collaborations and smart partnerships are powerful tools to get things done. Indeed, each posting throughout my work experience has shaped my leadership and management style besides influencing my views on certain issues and assisting me to find unconventional solutions in moving forward.

What are some highlights of the Strategic Plan 2022-2027 that LADA is developing for Langkawi.
This five-year Strategic Plan will set goals and directions, especially pertaining to Langkawi’s post Covid-19 pandemic recovery and the revitalisation of its tourism industry, which is the heart of the island’s development. Taking into consideration the fundamentals of its previous strategic plan, we are focusing on seven key result areas, namely tourism, geopark, investment, asset management, development planning, community development and organisational development.

While tourism remains the main catalyst for Langkawi’s development, LADA is also keen to attract more investors to develop the island. At the same time, we intend to provide better asset management for our existing facilities through public-private partnership (PPP). Ensuring that the locals benefit from Langkawi’s economic and social developments, we aim to engage the community in programmes and projects implemented by us and our strategic partners through the opening of new employment and business opportunities.

Under organisational development, we view our 335-strong workforce as our main asset. Therefore, we plan to equip them with competency training programmes and the necessary skills to uphold the agency’s mandate.

What is the latest progress on Langkawi’s UNESCO Global Geopark status?
We are confident of getting the green card status for it again in 2023 after our third green card revalidation in 2019 as we have good sustainability projects on the island and receive full support from non-government organisations (such as Friends of Langkawi Geopark and Trash Hero), government agencies and private establishments. We are managing the carrying capacity with our geopark stakeholders.

Langkawi recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Lake Toba, Indonesia and Satun, Thailand under the Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand-Growth Triangle initiative to share geopark sustainability’s best practices and broaden our horizon in promoting geological wonders. As the first UNESCO Global Geopark in Southeast Asia, Langkawi is fast becoming the reference centre in the region as we leverage on UNESCO’s international branding among its 169 members in 44 countries.

Tourism, being Langkawi’s most important economic activity, was badly hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. What is being done to help revive its hotel industry, travel agencies, tourist attractions and other related businesses?
LADA’s two main plans related to Langkawi’s recovery, particularly in tourism and community aspects, are its Tourism Recovery Plan (T-REC) and Economic Roadmap Plan (HELANG). Launched in July, T-REC comprises three phases, eight strategic intents and 24 actions to be executed over 18 months as we aim to reopen Langkawi as soon as possible.

The first phase is to get the island immunised by end-August and eventually make it a safe holiday destination. The Health Ministry and Covid-19 Immunisation Task Force are accelerating the vaccination process in Langkawi. The second phase focuses on concerted promotional efforts with industry players for Langkawi to be the top-of-the-mind destination, using conventional and digital platforms to implement tactical campaigns and subliminal promotions to encourage tourists to plan now and travel later. The third phase will be on the economic recovery among the islanders in balancing their livelihoods and restarting their businesses when the opportunities arise in September.

To reduce the community’s dependency on tourism, LADA has initiated programmes and projects to diversify Langkawi’s economy via HELANG by encouraging ventures into new sectors such as aquaculture and agriculture. The projects include freshwater lobster breeding, oyster mushroom and contract farming. We have also implemented skills development courses for small and medium entrepreneurs, benefitting over 500 participants such as taxi drivers, tour guides, cultural artists and small entrepreneurs or business operators.

Our collaboration with the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission saw us organising an online digital platform workshop to provide them with exposure on how to use Lazada and Shopee to promote their businesses and market their products outside Langkawi.

With Langkawi being a red zone looking at the latest statistics, can we expect it to achieve green zone status and reopen in September? If not, how soon can domestic and international travel resume?
We hope to achieve herd immunity once 80% of its population have completed two vaccination doses by end-August and are targeting for Langkawi’s reopening by early or mid-September depending on the number of Covid-19 cases we manage to reduce. With Langkawi identified by the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture as one of the pilot destinations for the reopening of tourism in Malaysia, we are now discussing with entry point operators, including the Marine Department and Malaysia Airports, on appropriate standard operating procedures for travellers entering the island.

Meanwhile, keen interests have been expressed by charterers from Russia and China to spend their holiday in Langkawi for their 2021/22 winter getaway and Chinese New Year celebration in January 2022 respectively.

What is the latest update on LADA’s wholly owned subsidiaries, LADA Eco-Tourism Sdn Bhd and Panorama Langkawi Sdn Bhd?
LADA Eco-Tourism was recently rebranded as Langsura Geopark Sdn Bhd to operate as a fully private tourist operator without influence from LADA management. Profits will be the main consideration for its decision-making with certain allocations put aside for community development as part of its corporate social responsibility programmes. Langsura Geopark’s main businesses now are Kerisik Restaurant, Ayer Hangat Village and Tasik Dayang Bunting. Ayer Hangat Village, Malaysia’s only saltwater hot spring and the only three available in the world, is managed by DXN AgroTech Sdn Bhd under the PPP programme in terms of knowledge sharing, technology transfer, marketing and promotion.

Despite the pandemic, Panorama Langkawi, whose operations include the SkyCab service, generated good returns in 2020 but its revenue is in deficit this year. With its businesses in the Oriental Village not in operation, we expect Panorama Langkawi to experience loss in rental income and thus might consider giving rental incentives to its tenants to ensure their survival.

In LADA’s participation in the Digital Travel Technology Association of Malaysia’s Virtual Tourism Expo (DITTAM VTE) 2021 from 27-29 August, what were some of the packages lined up to woo the pent-up tourists who will be travelling to Langkawi later?
DITTAM VTE 2021’s digital platform is timely before our grand reopening promotion of Langkawi in September. Some 11 travel agents, hotels and attraction operators took part with LADA subsidising their entrance fee to help them regain their operational momentum. The tour packages, sold at attractive prices to woo the pent up demand especially of high net worth tourists, have a year’s validity. Our targets are the honeymooners, millennials and the niche meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions from the government sector and multinational companies from the Klang Valley.

After a day’s work, how do you unwind?
As an avid photographer, my recent relocation to Langkawi, reputed for its natural endowment, has been one of my best perks in life. Leveraging on the wide outreach of social media, I share my pictures of it via my personal account, promoting Langkawi as a preferred holiday destination. It brings me joy when the online viewers share my pictures, which hopefully will inspire them to come to this legendary island. I am also into cycling and own a Brompton bicycle, which I tuck effortlessly into my car’s trunk. I would drive around the island and stop somewhere to cycle for about 10 to 20 km. Oftentimes, I would seize photo opportunities to capture the splendours of Langkawi.

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