As Tourism Drives Residents Out, Malaysia's Heritage City Turns to Millennials

  • 2019-06-06
  • This Is Place

The Malaysian port city of George Town became a UNESCO world heritage site in 2008, but since then an influx of tourists and rising rents have pushed out residents and the businesses that served them.

Once an important trading hub, George Town in the northern Malaysian state of Penang is a melting pot of Malaysia's rich cultural diversity, where British colonial buildings sit alongside Chinese shophouses, mosques and Hindu shrines.

Since winning world heritage status, it has become one of Asia's best-known tourist spots, attracting 3.8 million visitors in 2018 - more than double 2007 levels, official data show.

But as with other world heritage sites - from Venice to Vietnam's Hoi An - there are fears the city could become a victim of its own success as the onslaught of tourists and exodus of residents threatens its unique character.

He said the city was rapidly losing its intangible heritage – the traditional traders who have been forced out – while lax law enforcement meant heritage buildings were being demolished or renovated without adhering to conservation guidelines.