SITING a night market right in the Miri city centre will be a useful tourist attraction.
Currently, backpackers who stay in various budget hotels and lodges in the city have to walk or travel a long way to Saberkas commercial centre just to shop around in the open-air night markets there.
“Backpackers and tourists just love to browse in open-air night markets for native foods and local products all in one place,” said The Highlands lodge manager Joanne at the Water Front commercial centre here.
She told thesundaypost Miri city lacked a good night market convenient for backpackers and tourists who stay in the hotels and lodges in and around the city centre.
“The Saberkas night market is simply too far from the city centre, and from what I heard, there were complaints from shopowners and business operators there about the congestion created by stalls blocking the entrance to their premises,” she said.
“These places for night markets or bazaars are simply out of the way for tourists staying in the city.”
She suggested large car parks in the city centre were much more suitable locations as they would not cause friction with existing shops and would draw both locals and foreigners alike.
“One possible area is the large vacant space and open-air car park in the Centre Point Commercial Centre or the car park in the Water Front Commercial Centre — both within walking distance of tourists staying in the city,” she said.
She noted these car parks were usually empty after office hours when night market stall operators could be allowed to start their business.
“Foreign tourists are most interested in visiting night markets in places they visit. These will keep them occupied in the evening,” she said.
She noted that direct Singapore-Miri flights were very useful in bringing in foreign backpackers from all over the world who transit Singapore as a travel hub in Southeast Asia.
“We also get Singaporean backpackers now keen to explore the state just like their western counterparts and there are even Malaysian backpackers from KL coming over too, especially during school holidays like towards the end of the year.”
She lamented another weakness in the city — public transport to places of interests.
“It’s not uncommon to hear of foreign tourists being overcharged for short trips in town, usually a minimum of RM10 even though it may be just across the road but tourists often don’t know a destination could be within walking distance.”
She said there were lots of things tourists could do in Miri without going too far off such as the nearby Miri City Fan’s park and swimming pool, the Grand Old Lady museum in Canada Hill, and the beaches in Tanjung Lobang, Luak Bay, and Hawaii Beach.
“The Hawaii Beach is a favourite although it’s further away in Bakam because the beaches are great and there are stalls along the road selling native produce and marine catches.”
It is also timely that a bus company now plies the Miri-Niah route — the Niah Caves are now getting popular with tourists, some of whom are putting up at the chalets there.
“Tourists should be given every assistance to make their stay pleasant and interesting, and this is where lodge operators can help by providing useful information to guide them,” she added.
A talk with lodge operators, the frontliners for budget tourists, is certainly an eye-opener, and city planners as well as tourism players should take the trouble to feel the pulse on the ground.