TOURISM Malaysia is ready to leverage on the heritage listing status accorded by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) to Penang and Malacca to attract more foreign retirees to participate in the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) programme.
Tourism Malaysia board of directors member Datuk Kee Phaik Cheen said Australia and Europe - where heritage conservation efforts are widely promoted - would serve as target markets.
Last July, George Town and Malacca became World Heritage sites which were recognised by Unesco for their cultural heritage qualities.
Penang for example is home to Southeast Asia's largest collection of pre-war buildings estimated at over 15,000 structures.
Kee, who recently led a MM2H delegation to Sydney, Melbourne and Perth in Australia, said that from the feedback she had obtained from successful MM2H participants, an average cost of RM1 million is incurred by a participant of the programme via pre- and post-purchase expenses in Malaysia.
"This also includes air fares for repeated travel between their home country and Malaysia, before they finally decide on making Malaysia their second home, the amount they invest in property, tax-free cars and the transfer of funds into local banks for their daily living expenses," she added.
Between 2002 and 2008, Malaysia has welcomed a total of 12,566 participants of the MM2H.
The top 10 countries these participants hail from are Australia, Bangladesh, China, South Korea, Iran, Pakistan, Japan, Sri Lanka, Singapore and the UK.
MM2H allows foreigners who fulfil certain criteria, to stay in Malaysia for as long as possible on a multiple-entry social visit pass.
The social visit pass is initially for a period of 10 years, and is renewable.
Kee said apart from promoting the historic value of old properties to potential MM2H investors, Tourism Malaysia also continues to assist property developers and real estate agents throughout Malaysia when promoting the programme overseas.
"Affluent people overseas looking for second homes," she noted, "are also interested in houses by the sea, condominiums and summer houses like bungalows.
"But the value of the UNESCO heritage listing is something we intend to push by promoting inner city living and enjoying our culture, while using the restoration of dilapidated buildings as a hobby and investment to the MM2H participants,
She said apart from promoting the restoration and conservation of heritage houses in Malaysia, Tourism Malaysia has also been using these selling points for the MM2H scheme:
* the absence of a waiting list for medical treatment and procedures, unlike that in developing countries
* low-cost living with high living standards,
* extended family programmes for participants by offering vacation sites in Malaysia, and
* the safety factor.
"We are also telling potential participants that they can use Malaysia as a hub for doing business with China, India and the Middle East," she added.
Source : BusinessTimes
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