The Environment Of Perhentian Island, Malaysia

Modified: 4th May 2017
Wordcount: 5399 words

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For many small islands tourism is economically significant as a source of income and employment. Islands, especially small islands, continue to fascinate and attract tourists, and for tropical Less Developed Countries (LDCs) such as Malaysia with many offshore islands, developers and government planners see the potential to develop resorts. However, what if small islands that already host international tourism, even small-scale such as backpackers? What issues and tensions might emerge as these small island destinations face significant change? Peninsular Malaysia has many small islands off the east coast, they all have become increasingly popular among foreign and local tourist alike. Islands like Perhentian is drawing more and more people to visit and this popularity although good for the economics has brought about a mass tourism phenomenon whereby large amounts of people visit the island at one given time thus crowding the island. This drives the tourism authorities, hotels and tour operators to supply to the demand, focusing more on the mass tourism and the revenue it generates, thus neglecting the environmental degradation that brings about many negative impacts to the island. Many conservation programmes have been since embarked by the tourism authorities after realising the need for protection for the environment but most are just ad hoc and has not been sustained.

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The Perhentian islands off the east coast of peninsula Malaysia have been a tourism destination since the late 1980s when backpackers „discovered‟ these islands. The two main islands of perhentian have experienced differing forms of development since then, and this island has since attracted more and more visitors to its majestic islands. And this paper examines how mass tourism can affect a particular destination as a result of its popularity.

1.2 Research question

What are the effects of mass tourism to the environment of Pulau Perhentian that will be my research question

My problem comes with mass and advancing tourism industry and its effect to the natural setting that we have in Perhentian Island.

Urbanization is not indeed a problem to anyone, judging by the way everyone is living compared to 20 years back. The convenience to carry out a task is made so simple by so many gadgets, storing, managing and sharing data and information has never been easier after the invention of the internet and so on. It’s a virtual world now that we are living in.

Tourism is the no 1 hospitality industry in the world, with the advancement of technology in transportation and information transfer. Booking, choosing, travelling and experiencing has never been more easy. But have we ever stop to think what is required for us to experience these holidays? Hotel? Land? Natural resource? , and have we ever taken a step back to think what and how our activities have done to our environment? I am not arguing saying that tourism industry is the main cause of all the pollution and devastation caused. But in this paper I am going to show what some irresponsible stakeholders have done to Perhentian and how our mother nature suffers while watching us frolicking.

1.3 Research objectives

Malaysia is a country which embraces its modernity while its tradition and world old charm, together with this is its thriving beauty of the natural setting, the tropical jungles and its diverse ecosystem. Therefore this destination is fuelled by an increasing number of local and international tourists, and with advancement of global communication, the numbers are rocketing up. But with the increasing number of tourist host and suppliers in Malaysia need to cater to the demand thus causing development and urbanization, and thus causing Malaysia to lose much of its land, rain forest, sacrificing endangered species of animals along the way

This research has three specific objectives in order to understand the impact of mass tourism to the environment.

The first objective is to examine perhentian island which have been affected, the result of these pollutions and to prove that these pollutions are caused by mass tourism activities.

The second objective is to understand how government, NGO’s and the public are doing to preserve the environment.

The third objective is to provide solutions and ideas that can be used for the future of tourism and also preserve the environment at the same time so that tourism and sustainability can coexist without destroying each other.

1.4 Significant of studies

This research provides several benefits to the tourism industry , the local community and Perhentian island.

This research will help to show how mass tourism has been affecting the natural setting of perhentian island, and the danger that it poses to the endangered species of animals that share the islands warm water and jungles with us. Second, by identifying the cause and effect of the damage to perhentian island, measures can be than taken by local authorities and other government bodies to preserve the remaining of the island and set boundaries and rules which may in return bring back the balance in the ecosystem and the natural setting of perhentian island. Third, by implementing ;”travel laws” in perhentian , this would help to reduce on the damage that has hit perhentian. And help to preserve the environment and its ecosystem for the younger generation to experience.

Lastly, this research also contributes knowledge to sustain the natural setting not only in perhentian but also other destinations in Malaysia that could face the same problem as Perhentian.

1.5 Limitations of studies

This research is done to identify the relationships between Mass tourism activity and its direct impact to Perhentian island. Besides that, this research examines the results of such activity and the solutions that can be resorted to in order to maintain a balance. This research is conducted in Perhentian Island, Malaysia. Interviews will be carried out to both local and international tourists who are visiting Perhentian.

. The sample size is limited to 100 respondents. As perhentian is a small island

2.0 Literature review

2.1 Mass tourism

What is tourism?

There is no single definition of tourism which everyone uses. Many definitions have been used over the years, some of which are universal and can be applied to any situation, and others terms for a more specific purpose. Different tourism organisation, for example, often devises definitions that satisfy their own specific requirements. The more universal definition builds on Goeldner and Ritchie (2006)

‘Tourism may be defined as the sum of the processes, activities and outcomes arising from the relationship and the interaction among tourist, tourism suppliers, host governments, host communities and surrounding environments that are involved in the attracting, transporting, hosting and management of tourist and other visitors.’

Tourism according to the Cambridge online dictionary states that it’s the business of providing services such as transport, places to stay or entertainment for people who are on holiday. Meanwhile the oxford online dictionary says that it’s the commercial organization and operation of holidays and visits to places of interest.

What is mass tourism

Mass tourism is the act of visiting a leisure destination with large amounts of people at one time. The development of mass tourism is parallel to the development and improvements of technology. Transportation and internet has evolved so much in time , making communication fast and easy, this allows tourist to research, find out and book and even pay for their holidays online, this thus contributing to the rise of mass tourism, besides that the improvement in technology in the transportation industry also helps in the transport of large numbers of people in a short space of time to places of leisure interest, so that greater numbers of people could begin to enjoy the benefits of leisure time.

Mass tourism has always been the subject of criticism for its negative impacts around the world. Many books point out mass tourism’s potentially destructive impacts on societies, culture and environment. Many authors condemned and still condemn this mass consumption and those who enjoy it. Actually the debate over the advantages and the disadvantages of tourism has raged incessantly and will continue. Tourism development in many places, and especially mass tourism, has led to deterioration in environment quality. In the 1960s, the effects of mass tourism and the increasing awareness of the human impacts on the environment led to a general state that nature is not an inexhaustible resource.

Relation between environment and tourism

Today, one can assist to a high degree of sensibility for the natural environment. The reason is that tourism is the only economical sector that offers natural environment as a very important part of its product. In other words, the natural environment is a key element of the tourism activity. Krippendorf (1982) “the landscape is the real raw material of tourism; it is the reason for the existence of tourism as well as its economic driving force”. It highlights the fact that tourist product quality is linked with environment quality. This highly dependence between tourism and environment is often used as basic argument to make the tourism industry aware about the negative impacts of mass tourism on the environment. MA European Tourism Management


The environment constitutes a tourism resource and has to be considered as a part of the tourism product because no other economic sector is so vitally and directly affected by environmental quality (Mieczkowski, J. 1995). This close relationship or interdependence between tourism and environment, Mieczkowski (1995 ) defines it as “the environmental part of tourism”

Multiple surveys confirm the hypothesis that the quality of natural environment constitutes “the primary factors that attracted the present-day tourist” (WTO, 1983: 28). So, if tourism wants to survive, it seems imperative to reach this harmony between people and nature. It is the only way to minimize the costs of tourism on the environment and permit the tourist to enjoy undisturbed nature. (Mieczkowski, J. 1995) This “symbiotic relation”, term used by Budowski (1976) has a name, it is sustainable tourism.

Mass tourism creates intense environmental pressures due to the fact that such activity involves a large number of tourists in small areas. Moreover, those pressures are accentuated by the temporal polarization of mass tourism (Shaw, G. and Williams, A. 2002). Hudman and Jackson (2003) acknowledge that coastal resorts are a good example of changing pre-existing forms associated with both the human and physical environment. In Spain, for example, several coastal villages have been changed rather dramatically in the past few years. Travel posters of the area usually highlight the area as it was before tourism. Yet, with the growth of mass tourism, the scattered villages of Torremolinos, Benidorm or Lloret del Mar, and other small villages are no longer recognizable. Lloret de Mar, was among the first in Europe to be developed for mass tourism (, 2001). More recently, the development of transport facilities such as airlines have permitted to those places to attract still more tourists. For example, since the arrival of Ryanair, the low cost airline company, at Gerona airport, the town of Lloret de Mar has become far more accessible, especially to those who maintain a strict travel budget. Mass tourism has a range of impacts of all types on natural environment (e.g. coastal, mountains or inland) but also on built environments (e.g. historic sites or cities).

Mass tourism leads to the direct degradation, pollution, even destruction of elements (air, soils, geology, vegetation, water and wildlife) and ecosystems (coastal, mountains, inland and polar) (Mieczkowski, Z. 1995). The main causes are the construction of tourist facilities such as hotel complexes, theme parks and marinas and the concentration of tourists in the same place. The simplest way to view such environmental impacts is to consider mass tourism within specific environments. Coastal areas are especially vulnerable to mass tourism because they represent the most desirable places to spend vacation. In some places such as the Mediterranean, there has been widespread destruction of the ecosystems. It is the marine ecosystem which supports and is affected by mass beach tourism, especially concentrated during the high season (from June to August). The summer months have most sun and they include the longest school holiday period when families take their main vacation. The marine ecosystems suffer from garbage disposal by hotels and littering by tourists, oil spills from cruise ships and other motorized boat traffic, etc. (Mieczkowski, Z. 1995). All the construction of tourism facilities required for mass tourism in coastal areas affects the beach in any ways. Infrastructures are required to cope with the large volume of consumers in a short period of time (Shaw, G. and Williams, A. 2002)

Why did mass tourism happen

Mass tourism appears after the World War II, it was initiated in the back streets of the industrial towns and cities in the north of England. The development of mass tourism in the western world was linked to the economic development of society and as a matter of fact to the incorporation of a more powerful middle and lower class inside the tourist market. This expansion has been based on external factors such as generalisation of paid holidays, rising standards of living and a rapid improvement in the means of transportation such as the increase in air travel. The growth of such tourism represents a democratisation of travel and this democratisation means that status distinctions will be drawn between the different classes of traveller, but less between those that can travel or not.

Increase in car ownership

Increase in leisure time:

• holiday entitlement

• shorter working week

• early retirement with pensions

• ageing population

Greater wealth:

• larger incomes

• less children

• Two wage-earner families


Jet aircraft

Computer reservation systems

Internet on-line booking

The package tour

The package tour, also called package holiday, package travel or all-inclusive package are often standardised and with limited flexibility. The package refers to the purchase of a package of travel services including transport and accommodation. All other types of trips are non-package tours. When buying a package, the tourist feels sure to receive the service promised. Today, the industry tourism has adapted its offer to the customer needs and expectations and proposes tailor-made packages where the customer can combine all the components of his trip. The idea of the package tour is the same but more flexibility is granted

Weekend breaks



Popularity of the certain place


What are the effects?

The impact of the mass tourism is quite popular, especially upon the environment. Besides, very limited share of money spent on holidays actually get to the local people, which regional and native cultural attractions we all enjoy. These are the people who actually save the traditions and habits of their local areas. The people, who allow us to catch a glimpse of their cultural heritage, they are who have preserving and taking care of the un-spoiled nature for all of us. Maybe many of the people are used to think that big tour operators and large travel consortiums have a responsibility to preserve that local cultural heritage and environment. But they are only concerned about their profit and nothing else. But if one do not look a bit further in future and see that this way, one day there would not be many remaining tourist resources and gains will start descending fast. Unfortunately, this will affect no one so greatly, but the locals. After all, alternative tourism forms include small groups of people, who surely do not harm the environment that much. Besides, if not familiar, as I am sure most of them are, one of the aims of the alternative tourism forms is to acknowledge how to preserve the environment and local traditions and culture. Actually, some alternative forms are meant to enable man to appreciate the greatness of nature, a great such example is the eco-tourism. However, it is totally different situation in some big resorts with thousands of people running around and a lot of hotels keeping the beautiful nature views away from your sight. Of course, there are many ways of entertainment in view of the tourist’s animation, nightlife, and other. But is it not exactly that what we are running from? Could great nightlife and various animations with the difference they are at different place, compare with the variety of all alternative forms; to compare with the naked nature and cultural heritage?


1) Jobs are generated by tourism in many areas – in the initial construction of the resorts, in travel, in food provision and in other service related industries.

2) Local people benefit directly from employment

4) Transport facilities are developed

5) The local tax base increases so the local government/council can invest in schools, healthcare and social services.


1) TNCs (Trans National Corporations) from rich countries are often involved – this can result in a lot of profits leaving the country.

2 Jobs can be seasonal – especially in beach and skiing based resorts. people can therefore find themselves out of work in the close season.

3) Tourists consume huge amounts of resources including food and water – this type of tourism is particularly UNSUSTAINABLE in this manner.

4) Tourists introduce new values and cultures – this causes cultural pollution.

5) Land is lost from farming to tourist developments.

Example of a place affected by mass tourism

For years Bali, the pearl among the Sunda Islands, has been touted as an earthly paradise, thanks to the its tropical landscapes, its white sandy beaches, the tormented beauty of its Hindu temples and its inhabitants’ reputation for kindness and tolerance. But this idyllic spot may soon be a thing of the past, with the threat of Bali becoming a prey to the accumulated effects of mass tourism, unbridled consumption of resources and environmental collapse. From the 1970s onwards Bali really became a tourist destination. Hundreds of hotels use up a large share of freshwater reserves,with each four-star room consuming 300 litres a day. By 2015 Bali could be facing a drinking water crisis.

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More than a million visitors came to Bali in 2001. The figures for 2011 suggest that numbers have more than doubled since, ultimately unaffected by the 2002 terror attack, which left 202 dead, including many Australians. Every year 700 hectares of land is lost to hotels, luxury housing for rich foreigners or just roads to improve connections on the island. Every day some 13,000 cubic metres of waste is dumped on public tips and only half is recycled. With 13% more cars on the roads every year, the steadily increasing traffic causes massive jams.

In an attempt to mitigate the ill effects of mass tourism on the local Hindu culture , an exception in largely Muslim Indonesia , the authorities have introduced environmental legislation. One of its provisions makes it compulsory for resorts to be set back at least 150 metres from beaches, with no hotels within 5km of Hindu temples.

In January 2011, the governor of Bali, Made Mangku Pastika, issued a ban on new buildings in heavily developed areas, warning that Bali was in danger of becoming a sterile land bristling with concrete. The ban is far from popular with investors. Tourism is partly due to the attraction of our culture: if mass tourism develops in a way that threatens the culture, and this will result in the locals losing their specific attraction. Compared with other holiday venues in south-east Asia, Bali has retained much of its magic, at least in the areas so far spared by mass tourism. But if nothing is done to halt current trends, it may suffer the same fate as other dream destinations.

2.2 Perhentian Island

Asia-Pacific is one of the world’s fastest growing tourism areas in terms of international arrivals, especially in the South-East Asian sub-region with booming tourism in established destinations such Thailand (14.1 million international arrivals in 2009) and newer, emerging destinations such as Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos (UN WTO, 2010). The focus of this paper, Malaysia, also has a growing international tourism sector with 24.6 million international arrivals in 2010 generating over US $18.2 billion in receipts, and contributing at least seven per cent of GDP (MOTOUR, 2011). 4International arrivals data to Malaysia is disaggregated according to country of origin and not by market segment so it is unknown how many backpackers visit, but one estimate suggests at least 300,000 per year (Ian and Musa, 2005). Within the emerging South-East Asia backpacker trail, the Perhentian islands are one of the ‘hotspot’ sites in northern peninsula Malaysia. Typically, backpackers enter Malaysia from southern Thailand (or travel north from Singapore) and then journey in a circuit between Penang via the Cameron Highlands and then to the east coast specifically to visit the Perhentians. Backpackers often stay on islands or at other beach resorts as mini break from harder travelling within their larger trips around the region.

The Island of Perhentian

Not less than an hour on a boat from the east coast of Malaysia, Northeast of Peninsular Malaysia, nearby the city of Kota Bharu, there are two small islands that form the Perhentian Islands. The names are Perhentian Besar, the larger of the two and popular among couples and families with children, and Perhentian Kecil, the smaller island and very popular among budget travelers. Both the islands have plenty of accommodation available to stay overnight. This ranges from luxurious resorts that offer cabanas complete with air-conditioning, to simple lodges where you will have to do with cold water and a fan. There are no (internationally renowned) hotels. Perhentian is most popular because the great places for diving and snorkeling; in most cases you can enjoy the underwater world right in front of the resort. It is also very popular because the island is easy to reach; though during the monsoon season (October to March) practically the whole island is closed to tourists. As Perhentian Island is part of a marine park visitors have to pay a conservation fee of RM5. The island is situated about 20 kilometers off the northeastern coast of Peninsular Malaysia.

The Perhentian Islands are two islands named Pulau Perhentian Kecil (Small Perhentian Island) and Pulau Perhentian Besar (Large Perhentian Island). The Malay name Perhentian is translated as “place to stop” and this is exactly what these two islands were for traders travelling between Malaysia and Bangkok in years gone by. These islands are still a gorgeous place to stop and rest today.

The laid-back atmosphere and the natural beauty of the Perhentian islands immediately transport you to a different world. The white sand is dotted with sun-worshipping holiday makers, some retreating to the shade for a glass of freshly squeezed juice. A group of scuba divers are boarding a boat to venture out into the turquoise waters and submerge themselves in the underwater wonderland. Later, as the sun sets, a quiet buzz of music and chatter fills the air, together with the thin wisp of smoke from the barbeque fire. The islands remain relatively untouched and the only permanent inhabitants live in a small fishing village on Perhentian Kecil. Apart from footpaths that cut through the jungle, there are no roads on the islands. The only way to get around is by walking through the jungle or taking a sea taxi. If you tread carefully, you may even encounter some of the islands’ shy wildlife on the way, such as monitor lizards, fruit bats, squirrels or even the elusive mouse deer. Simple chalets and some moderately luxurious resorts line the picturesque beaches along with restaurants, dive centers and boat operators advertising their services with hand-painted signs. Perhaps it is the stretches of white beach or the crystal clear water and the superior scuba diving. Perhaps it is the untouched forests or the relaxed atmosphere and unspoiled charm. We like to think that the lush greens and the wildlife’s habiting the island makes Perhentian Islands the perfect place to relate ecotourism & adventure tourism.

Activities In the island

Attractions in Perhentian island are all nature based, ranging from snorkeling to scuba diving and jungle treeking. All eager to teach tourist about the ecosystem that surrounds the island. These islands have been gazette as a marine park and as such littering, fishing and collecting of any marine life (whether dead or alive) is strictly prohibited. As it is a marine park, this also means that the rich diversity of aquatic life has been preserved and it is beautiful to experience.


Perhentian is famous for its great snorkeling possibilities. A lot of resorts on the island have their own house reef. This means that you can snorkel directly in front or within walking distance of your resort. On the Perhentians there are dozens of diving schools. There, you can rent diving goggles, an air tube and flippers for a small fee (usually around RM15 per day). With this equipment you can snorkel in front of your bungalow. Sadly the fish in front of the resorts often are very spoiled. This means that, as soon as you are in the water you will be surrounded by small (and sometimes also large) fish that expect you to feed them. Also, the coral reefs near the resorts usually are less beautiful, because boats regularly pass by to drop people off at the resort. Some of the popular spots for snorkeling are Shark Point, Teluk Pauh and Tanjung Basi. If you are lucky, a combination of these stops may mean that you see a turtle, some black tip reef sharks and an abundance of colourful coral all in one. But the sheer amounts of visitors and careless practices have resulted in damage to the coral and consequently the marine life around the islands rip.

Scuba Diving

Many tourists visit Perhentian Island to enjoy a couple of great dives. As there is fierce competition between operators diving at the island is relatively cheap, usually ranging between RM60 and RM80 per dive. Diving at Perhentian is especially for beginners as there are almost no currents and visibility is almost always fine. There are better places to dive in Malaysia, but almost none of them are so affordable and easy to reach as on Perhentian. Marine life is in abundance here and apart from the many species of hard and soft coral that form the backbone of these ecosystems you can also expect to encounter turtles, several species of sharks, mackerel, jacks, moray eels, nudibranchs and various other reef fish. This gives a chance for ecotourist to learn about marine life in their natural habitat and to learn how not to spoil their habitat.

Jungle Trekking

On both the islands there are a number of hiking trails, there are no roads however. The trails are light and usually don’t take more than 30 minutes to complete. Perhentian is too small to spot real wildlife, but there are monitor lizards, monkeys, fruit bats and some species of birds on the island. Because walking in the heat is not very pleasant for many, you can take water taxis to return to your resort after the hike. When going to secluded locations, come to an agreement on the pickup for the return trip. Tropical forest covers the greater part of the Perhentian Islands and a few trails that twist through the greenery allow you to explore the diversity of plant life. Tread quietly and you may just meet a few of the islands’ animals along the way. Monitor lizards are in abundance, as are numerous species of insects and birds. If you are lucky, you may even spot a group of long-tailed macaques (a type of monkey). The elusive mouse deer is also said to inhabit the island, but these tiny animals are rarely seen.

Perhentian a conservation island ?

In line with the conservation effort Perhentian Island has Marine Parks as Marine Park are ideal places for viewing the rich aquatic life that abound in Malaysia’s water. There are 5 marine parks and tourist wishing to visit these parks must take note of regulations. A Marine park is an area of the sea zoned as a sanctuary for the coral reef community which is considered as possibly the most productive ecosystem in the world, with its diversity of flora and fauna. Coral reefs are also important breeding and nursery grounds for many commercially important species of marine organisms and fish.

Among the objectives of the Marine Park and Marine reserves are:

– Preservation and protection of coral reef areas from the impact of development.

– Upgrade and preserve the natural habitat of endangered species of aquatic life.

– Establishment of zones for preservation of the aquatic flora and fauna and also for the purpose of research and educational activities.

– Establishment of zones for recreational uses consistent with the carrying capacity of the area.

With the establishment of the Marine Park, the benefits are as follows, the ecosystem and habitat of marine life will be protected and maintained, besides that it will also help in rejuvenation of over exploited zones and their maintenance for the protection of endangered species of marine organisms, and establishment of zones for research and educational purposes.

Perhentian and mass tourism

The growth of tourism changes and modifies the environment. Environment is land, water, air, flora and fauna, but also people and culture and the impacts of tourism are reflected on elements of the natural environment as well as on the man-made environment or built environment (development of environments for tourism as for example holiday resorts). The development of tourism requires the existence of an infrastructure, as well as hotel accommodation and another facilities specific to tourism. In some areas highways and airfields have been constructed to make stimulate tourism but not always has the local population benefited from these developments. Infrastructure and facilities require land and the consequence is that land prices rise in the areas were tourism is developing

What are the effects so far?

The Perhentian Islands are fast taking the middle ground of the tourism industry. Not big enough for runways and golf courses like its neighbour Redang Island, tourism comes in two main forms – backpackers on Pulau Kecil and weekenders on Pulau Besar. There are only a couple of high-priced resorts, while the bulk of the accommodations cater to the mid-range crowd. Only two decades ago, Perhentian was considered a well-kept secret; now the beaches are chock-a-block full of resorts, chalets, dive shops and cafes. Back in 1985 less than ten chalets occupied the coastline of both islands, but a buildin


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