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A MUCH anticipated visit to one of Malaysia’s significant landmarks in the city left a family with a bitter taste in their mouths. It was not because of the breathtaking view of the city skyline as seen from the observation deck at a height of some 421m. Rather, it was the hospitality and service, or lack of it, that was accorded to them. Another scenario — the condition of public toilets at some popular tourist spots and parks leaves much to be desired. Sad. Visit Malaysia Year 2020 is just five months away. Are we ready to receive the 30 million foreigners touted to visit us next year? Ready is subjective, what matters is that we should be prepared for any eventuality.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad urged Malaysians to make VMY 2020 a national mission and play a role in the tourism promotion campaign. “The famed Malaysian hospitality must not remain a mere slogan, but translated into action.” Indeed, to rake in the RM100 billion in tourist receipts, the focus should be on bringing in the big players and stakeholders. It is global marketing targeted at the richer and developed countries — trade commissions must be mobilized, VMY slogans and attractions plastered on billboards and tour buses, travel agencies the world over must sell Malaysian holiday packages before others. On the home front, hotels must be spruced up and equipped with multilingual customer relations people. Don’t forget the watering holes, entertainment venues for the young and happening and sarong party girls — the point is, the big spenders must be enticed. For backpackers and nature lovers, woo them with rustic and cozy homestays with breakfast thrown in.

Offer family packages for eco-travel or a guided tour of Malaysia’s 130-million-year-old rainforests, Taman Negara (Pahang) or the Royal Belum Forest (Perak). For lovers of art, culturally, our Mak Yong, wayang kulit, Chinese opera, and Indian performances are not to be missed. But all these would mean naught if the hospitality and service industry do not pull their socks up. An efficient public transport system, with trains, buses and taxis (resolve the Grab issue) to run the entire length and breadth of Malaysia is a must.

Embrace tourism; as hosts, we are required to be courteous and friendly to our guests. But, we should also remember to keep our culture and pride intact — a manual on Malaysian etiquette of the do’s and don’ts would go a long way in educating our guests. A tall order, truly. Understandably, Tourism Malaysia (Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board) has its work cut out for it. Last year’s first nine months’ data only showed 19.4 million tourist arrivals and tourist receipts of RM61.9 billion. Cut down on the bickering and get to work. The ongoing brouhaha on logo and tagline should not cloud our common sense.

There needs to be a sense of urgency because time is of the essence here. Logo and taglines, while needing to be eye-catching, will not do the selling. Roll out previous VMY plans and see what can be improved or added. Time for a reboot, if we want to reach that target of 30 million foreigners and RM100 billion in receipts. Source - NST