Cleaning Up In More Ways Than One
What should the yet-to-be appointed Tourism Minister mark as priorities? Cleaner toilets and efficient services are just some of what should be looked into, according to a ‘to do’ list provided by a senior private sector official.

FIRST of all, please replace the Visit Malaysia 2020 logo that stands nowhere on the international stage.

Just as what we saw over Tabung Harapan, it only needs a word from you and our many local graphic designers will be glad to do their bit and contribute to the nation a new streamlined and convincing logo design.

Second, tourism is a multi-disciplinary industry ranging from infrastructure to border control, immigration, customs, health, safety, food, shopping and more.

Hence, it should not only be in-bound tourist numbers that matter to you; the importance of outbound travellers should not be ignored as well.

In order to improve the tourism industry, you should take into consideration the achievements and setbacks of upstream and downstream operations.

For example, the misery of tour bus operators and tour guides and the imbalance of low prices versus high costs of the hotel industry.

Besides that, the urban taxi issue is another that has brought damage to the integrity and reputation of the tourism industry. While these are widely known facts, the remedies must be fast.

Third, we should not have tourism associations with overlapping roles that could lead to power struggles and chaos. There should only be one single guild to forge a strong union and carry a loud voice.

Fourth, the Tourism Industry Act 1992 should catch up with the times with reviews and revisions.

In particular, getting a travel agency licence is more difficult than opening a bank but when a travel agency closes down it is not compelled to pay compensation.

To customers, there is no protection against such situations. On the other hand, training a tour guide is just as time-consuming as training a nurse.

As such, the tour guide licence should be changed to a life-time tenure so that qualified retired tour guides can be called upon to help out when more qualified tour guides are needed during peak seasons.

This is surely better than taking any non-qualified ordinary person as a tour guide.

As for the tour bus licence, to get a new licence, it is really crucial to regulate the bus licensing system.

It is necessary to encourage competent in-bound tour operators to increase the number of tour buseswhich will benefit the industry.

Fifth, the Tourism Ministry should be lean. Besides the minister, deputy minister, secretary-general, director-general and three deputy directors-general and Tourism Promotion Board chairman, there are also overseas office directors posted all over the world with their families who are provided with three to five years accommodation and living expenses, plus family education expenses. These will surely drain our finances.

Sixth, do away with the entry visa administrative fees for visitors from China and India and plug loopholes in the system.

The visa is free but why is there an administrative fee of RM100 to RM175 paid to an outsourced company?

Please stop this. An absolute free visa will bring an influx of tourists.

Seventh, since culture and tourism go hand in hand, our toilet culture should also be a main consideration.

It is a fact that tourists normally head to the rest rooms after getting off the plane. In our “magnificent” and huge airport building, our toilets are such a disgrace.

There goes the first impression of our international gateway.

Furthermore, our public toilets in most tourist attractions are also in an awful state.

Eighth, whether intentionally or unintentionally, why does the airport Immigration make tourists wait in line for more than an hour?

Was it due to inadequacy of the fingerprint reader and systems? Or the policy to require careful scrutiny of foreign passports? Or the zero efficiency of Immigration officers, or them being so exhausted?

Collecting luggage is another endless wait.

I propose that the CEO of Malaysia Airports be replaced with a more responsible operational leader.

Despite the immigration and airport departments not being under your jurisdiction, I am bringing up these issues as they are inter-related which require inter-departmental communication and cooperation for mutual benefit.

As I heard recently, a former transport minister also criticised the inefficiency of KLIA.

As the airport is the gateway to our country, I suggest that our YB considers learning from him. There is no harm in trying to save and rectify the tourism industry which is your KPI too.

Ninth, feedback from industry stakeholders and tourists are expert-level recommendations.

You only need to listen, analyse and adopt practical action, do more with less.

However, in the past, the minister was allegedly surrounded mainly by cronies.

I know a former MP who will be glad to share the details of this issue.

I think this will be good for you to prevent being given a tough time by the leftover bureaucrats.

In fact, funding for your ministry does not come easy, let it not go to waste.

Tenth, YB, I recommend that you pay a visit to the CIQ at the Johor Baru second link.

While thousands of tourists enter from Singapore daily, the Chinese tourists are particularly picked upon to extort some “toll”.

At the same time, the tourists have to suffer from inefficient services under the sun.

At times, I wonder if there is really any conflict between government departments.

The Cabinet must discuss and resolve this kind of unnecessary problems.

Japan’s JNTO, South Korea’s KTO, Singapore’s STB, Taiwan’s TTB, Australia’s TA, Macau’s MCTO, Hong Kong’s HKTB, Thailand’s TAT, and Swiss Tourism are among the excellent tourism promotion boards that are worth learning from.

YB, we put our hope in you to save the tourism industry of Malaysia!

Datuk Seri Eh Leesan is the group executive chairman of Apple Vacations and Conventions.
The Star, 23 June 2018

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