The tourists are back as Cherating turns into a surfing destination.
KUANTAN: Cherating Beach, located some 47 km north of here, used to be a popular leisure spot among local folks as well as foreign tourists.
Then, many tourists were more familiar with the beach than this state capital.
In the late 1990s, however, tourism dwindled as Cherating, once a traditional and scenic village, was taken over by robust development.
This was a time when the beach appeared to have lost its magic and no longer attracted many visitors.
But things have turned for the better in the past three years, as the beach has become a surfing paradise. Now, Cherating has regained some of its former glory, drawing tourists back to the beach.
The general manager for Pahang's office of the Tourism Ministry, Idros Yahya, said the Cherating Surf Festival, held for the past three years, is among efforts to promote the beach as one of the world's leading destinations for wave-riders.
"Tourists are returning to the beach as surfing is possible throughout the year . The waves are ideal," he said.
Idros said the beach has not only attracted surfers from Australia, Maldives, Thailand, Taiwan, Japan and France, but also domestic tourists.
The festival, held at the end of each year, has managed to regain Cherating's image as a tourist destination.
"It also provides the opportunity for local surfers to show their talents , as well as learning from foreign surfers," he said, adding that villagers benefit from the business spin-offs.
Idros said organiser Billabong Pro Am included Pantai Cherating as one of the stops on their Asian Surf Championship circuit calendar for this year.
At the event, there is a surf clinic held by the organisers for visitors. The clinic was introduced last year for a fee but this year it was for free.
"We expected about 50 participants but the response was overwhelming. About 100 people registered," Idros said.
Idros said tourism authorities are confident that Pantai Cherating will regain its popularity among tourists because of efforts to rebrand the beach as a surfing destination.
"Pantai Cherating is the only beach in Malaysia that has been turned into a surfing beach by the Tourism Ministry," he said.
It is now listed among the 19 new tourist destinations in Pahang.
Statistics show that Cherating received 194,075 tourists in 2008 and 198,764 in 2009, while for 2010 there was a jump to 301,819.