Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Tourists Hopping Mad Over Glitches

KUALA LUMPUR: After a year-long preparation, the Visit Malaysia Year 2007 kick-started with both good and bad news.

The good news is that, yesterday, 50,000 tourists arrived through the various entry points but several glitches, teething problems and congestion had some tourists hot under the collar.

The much anticipated KL Hop-On-Hop-Off bus service saw long delays and on-board commentaries were not functioning.

Several tourists also complained about the poor language of the bus drivers and guides and swore that they would not recommend the bus service to friends.

The Hop-On-Hop-Off bus service is a noted tourism tool in many countries with the on-board commentaries highlighting the city’s history, information on landmarks and cultures.

The service came into effect yesterday and it covers 21 stops in Kuala Lumpur which, among others, comprise KLCC and the KL Tower.

Priced at RM38 for adults and RM19 for children, the bus pass is valid for 24 hours.

Tourism Ministry director-general Datuk Mirza Mohammad Taiyab was confident the shortcomings would be addressed soon and was upbeat with the increased arrivals.

He said the first-day arrivals puts the country’s goal of achieving a total of 20.1 million tourists by year-end in good stead which would then translate into RM44.5 billion in revenue.

The last VMY in 1994 brought in 7.2 million visitors with earnings of RM8.3 billion.

The government spent RM149 million for activities and promotions.

The move to add 32 more check-in counters at the Penang International Airport to accommodate the 3.6 million passengers has not got off the ground.

Malaysia Airports Bhd senior manager Abdul Wahab Mohd Yusof said yesterday that work on the additional counters, costing RM12 million, will start later this month and will only be completed at the end of the year, when the VMY 2007 winds up.

He said the additional check-in counters were proposed in 2004 but changes to the design, technical problems and budget constraints had delayed the project.

Repairs to one of the runways has also been delayed.

"These delays are unavoidable. We are dealing with a live airport.

"We tried our best to complete it early but there were constraints such as the unpredictable weather," he said.

"A new parking apron would also be constructed but it will only be ready by next year," he told reporters after receiving 560 tourists from Thailand, Singapore and China yesterday.

State Tourism Hospitality Committee chairman Cheang Chee Gooi, who was also present to greet the visitors, urged the airport authorities to speed up their expansion project.

Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Mansor, asked to comment on the delay in expanding facilities at the Penang Airport, said the present facilities were sufficient to cater for the VMY 2007 arrivals while the new facilities would cater for repeat tourists who return in 2008 and later.

"There is no need to speed it up now and create a mess at the airport as it will only disrupt tourists coming into the island this year, " he said.

He also promised to look into the complaints of tourists and direct his officers to get those responsible to improve services.

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