Unesco's recognition of Langkawi as a geopark has helped to draw more tourists from the Middle East to the legendary island.
Langkawi Development Authority (LADA) general manager Datuk Kamarulzaman Abdul Ghani said 26,000 tourists from the Middle East visited the island resort last year compared to 18,000 in 2006.
"This significant increase in visitors from the Middle East has contributed to the total tourist arrivals to Langkawi. The Langkawi Geopark brand is a new attraction for tourists, particularly those from the Middle East who are captivated by the landscape of greenery and beautiful beaches," he told Bernama at the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2008 which ended here yesterday.
Some 2.3 million visitors arrived in Langkawi last year compared to 1.8 million in 2006.
The geopark, which encompasses the 99 islands in the Langkawi chain, has all the attributes of an ecotourism destination, which is complemented by its status as a duty-free island.
Langkawi Geopark has been picked as the secretariat for the Asia-Pacific Geopark Network (APGN).
"We want the secretariat in Langkawi to assist APGN members interested in applying for geopark status," said Kamarulzaman.
This was because many Asia Pacific countries have geoparks but none had been recognised by Unesco except for Malaysia and China, he added.
He said LADA and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) would present a working paper to bid to host the 4th World Geopark Conference in 2010.
Langkawi Geopark was recognised as the world's 52nd geopark and the first in Southeast Asia by Unesco on June 1 last year.