Tourism megabuck$ in urban greens
Published on: Monday, July 20, 2020
By: Eskay Ong
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AT FIRST sight, urban greeneries would cause few people to bat an eyelid while most would not be much bothered to give it a second thought. They cannot be blamed as they have been fed the same old greenery year in and year out to the extent that they have become immune to it, whatever the stuff out there.  

Little do they know that big money may literally be plucked off trees, shrubs and flowers in Sabah if they are set up in exquisitely attractive and stunning ways.  There are many methods to create powerful pulls that leverage on visitor weak spots for awesome visual impacts from the scenery.  

It is not about a few measly ringgit or dollar but the gross amount that a country can cream off visitors’ pockets, both locals and overseas tourists, can run into the billions by fulfilling their wants and needs of fabulous urban greeneries.

As countries become more developed and standards of living improve, people’s pockets generally become more laden, which result in tendencies to spend more lavishly.  

With many countries now lifting restrictions on travel, popular destinations may soon be faced with an increasing number of local visitors and foreign tourists.  And what do they do with bulging pockets and regained freedom?  Spend and spend, which is what I call revenge spending.

But is Sabah ready to scoop back the lost riches? Is the state ready to claim the billions that is floating somewhere out there? Have more publicity, promotion, roadshows, marketing, etc. been done to inform selected and priority markets that Sabah is going to and ready to welcome them back?  

The term “priority and selected” is meant to focus on markets that are “green” and approved by the authorities, instead of just about any country or anyone with a few extra bucks to throw around.

When that happens, it has to be backed up by solid hardware that is already in existence or being upgraded, or at least in the process of being completed.  Are the panoramic and attractive sites ready and primed to induce the opening of wallets by hungry visitors?  

By now, many five-star hotels, if they have not already partially opened for business, would already be in conditions of spick-and-span and ready to receive guests.  Generally, most businesses are already in full swing while abiding strictly by all the SOPs set by the government.

Opportunity now for improvements

It is widely known that many countries are rushing to reopen all fields of their economies that were affected by the recent viral pandemic. This is linked to their success in the battle to flatten the infection and mortality curve.  

Many are also tiptoeing to open up their borders to movement of people from countries that are deemed to be ‘green’ but on a reciprocal basis. The sum total of all such actions is that there are great hope and expectations in store, with health and safety aspects of the local population remaining uppermost in the minds of policymakers.

While Malaysia is still under Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO), there is a silver lining in the clouds in that the time is opportune for some planning and development to be effected on the best avenue to rake in the tourism megabucks from existing urban green assets.  

The time is also right for some serious upgrading and improvement of the urban greeneries as they have remained quite run-down without any stunning or awe-inspiring angles to look at or spend on.  

Of course, the megabucks in tourism are also available in other fields such as food, shopping, handicrafts, native cultural shows, accommodation, tours and other thrilling and fun activities that visitors can readily splash money on.  

But one of the most important and busiest aspects is sight-seeing. This generates a powerful visual impact in the eyes of the beholder with images of the destinations visited being locked permanently in the brain.  Visitors always say that without sight-seeing, there is no tourism because every location carries different views and images which are certain to be etched into their minds.  

While souvenirs may be lost or broken, images set into the hard disk of the brain are unlikely to be lost unless the supply of oxygen is choked off.  

For instance, there is only one Mount Kinabalu in the whole world, and many plant and land forms can only be found in Sabah, and once seen, the image will be locked in and saved for good.  So are the numerous arts and cultural items, including the Sigah Roundabout in Penampang which is a piece of built-up construction.

Tourism and urban greeneries

It is a fact that almost every great city around the world places great focus on urban greening as a draw card to attract viewers.  

What about urban greeneries within KK cityscape?  The pulse of the city feels good when people are talking about RM5-10 billion resort projects but the bottom line remains the same sturdy and safe brick and mortar of splendid views, delightful scenes and picturesque naturescapes.  

There are many exciting sites within an hour’s drive from the KK city centre and all are well-beaten paths taken by many to revel in fun on the beach, mountain climbing or staring, paragliding off the hills of Ranau, paddling jongkongs along crocodile-free rivers, ogling at a few tired fireflies or proboscis monkeys, among many others.

It is now time for distinctively one-of-a-kind new ideas with local features and characteristics, to create the necessary naturescaping in order to produce the unique, iconic and exquisitely captivating settings so that destination panoramas and images, once viewed by any visitor, may be permanently remembered, which, in time to come, may have a positive influence on repeat visitors as a result of nostalgia and reminiscence.  

It is human nature to be easily impacted by splendid and breathtakingly stunning creations which usually result in an urge to see more of it, again and again.  By leveraging on this, tourism megabucks may be reaped in, again and again, too.  

Hopefully, the Ministry of Tourism may take the lead in this respect to suck megabucks into the state for the benefit of the people. The relevant officials must be aware that there are so many locations all over the world that are virtually buckling under the massive numbers of visitors who gleefully paid big fees just to see certain historic sites, natural landscapes, or planted naturescapes.  

As international borders are being loosened up especially those of ‘green’ countries, it is imminent that the torrent of foreign visitors are on the way to their preferred destinations, Sabah included, hopefully, if there are enough stuffs to show.

In this respect, where does Sabah stand?  Should the Ministry or KK City Hall take the lead and leverage on the popularity of the state as a travel destination for the millions of eager travellers who are out for some real revenge spending?  Is the state ready to tap into the billion-ringgit juicy plum now that borders are opening up again?

For instance, naturescapes and flowers are so popular with visitors that they are virtually milling around skin-to-skin just to enjoy the sight of cherry blossoms in full bloom in Japan.  

Similarly, moss phlox which are ground hugging plants in Hokkaido, Japan, that come in all shades and colours, are definitely eye- and purse-openers.  The fact that almost a million plants are on one continuous stretch of land is surely reason for visitors to swell in number and gawk at the beauty, with cash being splashed around, too.  

On the Asian mainland, vast swathes of yellow canola fields in Yunnan, China, and golden yellow chrysanthemums in Vietnam that pull in millions of visitors to ogle at the golden colour, are equivalent to yellow gold that farmers and other entrepreneurs haul in year in and year out.  

This is undeniable testimony that there are megabucks in greeneries, regardless of whether they are of the urban or rural kind.  Add in the purplish lavender fields of Provence, France, the tulips of Holland, the sunflower fields of Tuscany, Italy, and an unending list of other gorgeous and striking greens of both the flowering and foliage types including tree tunnels of Hawaii, are sufficient to open up every visitor’s wallet and empty them at the location.

It is interesting to note too that most of these gorgeous mass plantings are also economic crops where huge revenues are obtained in the business of seeds, oils, fragrances and dyes that are commercially extracted from them.  The fact that there are spin-offs in tourism augurs well for both sides as it can be considered as an added bonus.

Strong points in Sabah 

urban greeneries

In Sabah, there are a lot of positive aspects in urban greeneries as a lure to tap into the tourism money. 

In fact, it is quite easy and economical to create local equivalents of the captivating Japanese or Chinese crowd-pullers by utilising and maximising on our local flowering wonders such as Otacanthus, Adenium, Wrightia, Eichhornia, Bauhinia, Tabebuia, and so on.  

The easiest and fastest route is the first four varieties which, when in maximum bloom, are so massive and spectacular that they can truly be mesmerising, and in the process, invite unceasing gawkings and oglings peppered with incredibly rave reviews and positive comments.  

Flowering sensations such as Bauhinia kockiana and Quisqualis indica are perfect for creating cascades of colour within the city.  Adenium obesum which can be commanded to flower at selected times, is also another fantastic stunner.  

If a million moss phlox in Japan can be planted to flower and to draw in millions of visitors, Sabah just need to plant a tenth of that number of Adeniums in broad avenues or amoeboid swathes to create ten million blooms, and under such circumstances, it may become a must-see site for every visitor to the state.  

For aquatic plants such as Eichhornia crassipes and Nelumbium nelumbo (Pond Lotus), the flowering cycle is much controlled by nature, but the blooming season which is no less magnificent and phenomenal, is in the early part of the year. 

In other words, our local stunners and dazzlers can be as ravishing as those in foreign countries, which means there is potentially plenty of work for the Ministry of Tourism in particular and Sabah in general, to partake of the tourism megabucks. 

Many countries overseas, especially their ministries and agencies connected with tourism, regularly monitor the blooming season of outstanding flora and set them in annual calendars of must-visit activities.  

In Sabah, it is not known if the Ministry, City Hall or other agencies have ever noticed that, or even know how many people or agencies have learnt of the flowering cycles and their connection to megabucks.

Scooping up tourism 

megabuck$ in Sabah

Tourism megabucks may be likened to a situation where the transfer of wealth in tourism activities to the local population is considered to be one of the great ways to help uplift the standard of living of the people, with the result that it is a win-win-win formula for all, namely, the government, visitors and local population.  

This is what the government, ministries, departments and other agencies have been blaring about since decades ago, and if they don’t act on whatever is proclaimed, then what are they waiting for?

Urban greens mean money that lead to a win-win-win situation for all.  These are all plentiful out there and it remains for real planning and action by the relevant agencies as aforementioned to put them to work to rake in the megabucks.

At the end of the day, however, the matter of ringgit and sense comes in.  Fortunately, the budget for simple but striking eye-openers and spell-binders such as those mentioned above, would only be a minuscule portion of what a resort requires.

A large lotus pond in KK with many flowers coming into full bloom soon.


A swathe of Otacanthus flowers is always a sight for a thousand selfies. Tourists enjoy seeing large masses of flowers which means any meaningful planting must be bold and colourful.


A large patch of Adenium flowers in KK. The sight can be truly mind-boggling if the planting is on a large scale, which is what tourists want to see.


Eichhornia in full bloom, and hundreds of spectators stopping by and milling around.


 To enjoy the splendid view offered by the blooms.  See the simplicity of the flowers and their powerful pull. If there are cafes and eateries nearby, they should be overflowing with patrons.


Beautiful blooms of Bauhinia cockiana and Tabebuia.



There are methods to treat them in mind-blowing ways so that visitors may demand to pay for the right to view them. Therein comes the mega buck$.


Lavender fields in France.


 Chrysanthemum fields in Vietnam. These fields of flowers draw in an unending stream of tourists besides having the regular harvests of pricey horticultural produce.


Golden yellow canola fields over thousands of hectares in Yunnan, China.


Vast stretches of moss phlox flowers in Hokkaido, Japan.  


Lily flower farms at Nantou near Sun-Moon Lake, Taiwan. These are definitely crowd-pullers.


-  The writer may be reached at The rights to the above ideas and suggestions belong to the writer.


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