Sunday, February 11, 2007

All must work to make VMY work

While numerous visitors to Malaysia have enjoyed their stay here, some have been unhappy enough to write letters of complaints to newspapers. Sunday Star checks with various parties on how things have been in the first month of Visit Malaysia 2007

WHEN Briton James Horton stopped over in Malaysia on his way to Singapore, he was pleasantly surprised to discover that the Visit Malaysia 2007 promotion was being held in conjunction with the country's 50th anniversary celebrations. Losing no time, Horton, 35, jumped onto one of the KL Hop-on Hop-off City Tour buses to get a glimpse of the city.

What he saw impressed him. He was very happy to discover KLCC, which he had heard so much about, and also the famous Golden Triangle area, which houses the Bintang Walk, BB Plaza, Starhill, Lot 10 and Sungai Wang Plaza.

“I enjoyed it very much as the short time spent in Kuala Lumpur allowed me to enjoy these tourist attractions,” says the engineer from Bristol.

Ngiam Foon - MATTA President
However, Horton, who plans to come back later in the year for a longer visit, said there should be more visible signages around town promoting Visit Malaysia 2007, and better trained taxi drivers to provide information about famous sites.

“To get to the Hop-on Hop-off bus, I had to ask quite a number of passers-by. Thank goodness, I am an experienced traveller, and have little difficulty finding my way around.”

Horton is just one of the many tourists who have come into the country via a stopover, with tour groups, on Visit Malaysia packages or as backpackers.

After more than a month, tourists and relevant parties have provided feedback on how Visit Malaysia 2007 is coming along and how the tourism industry in Malaysia can iron out the kinks in the campaign so far.

The Malaysia Tourism Centre (MTC) is abuzz with programmes to make the year as exciting and as interesting as possible. The target set is to attract as many as 20.1milllion tourists to the country this year.

Promotions manager Ibrahim Siddiq Talib, who is with the Secretariat for Visit Malaysia 2007, says that despite all the preparations, minor glitches are to be expected.

“You can't expect it to be 100% perfect, but we are prepared for it. There is an increasing number of tourists coming in to the country,” he says.

Ibrahim explains that tourists can get information on Visit Malaysia 2007 the moment they step down from the plane at KL International Airport (KLIA). The Visitors Service Centre is there to help them gain information and there is also a tourism infoline 1-300-88-50-50 (within Malaysia).

“We have service centres in KL Sentral and other strategic locations that the tourists can approach,” he says.

As for errant taxi drivers, Ibrahim says that the MTC is aware that there are some taking advantage of the situation and charging tourists steep prices.

“It is the 5% that is spoiling the market for the rest who are doing their jobs well. But many of them (taxi drivers) are complying with the responsibility that comes with Visit Malaysia 2007.”

As for the Malaysian tourism offices overseas (there are 30 offices in different parts of the world), Ibrahim says they have been busy doing promotional activities to bring in visitors to the country.

“In London, the cab drivers have advertisements on their cars to promote Visit Malaysia 2007,” he says.

Tourism, as the second biggest revenue generator for the country, benefits the people, especially those in the travel, hotel and transport industries.

Thus, creating a friendly and efficient environment will go a long way to encourage visitors to the country.

“Overall, everyone needs to chip in so that we can have a successful Visit Malaysia Year 2007,” he says.

Matta president Ngiam Foon says that Visit Malaysia 2007 should be seen as an ongoing promotion campaign and not a one-off event.

“Our last Visit Malaysia Year was in 1994. Competition for the tourism dollar is getting keener than ever as more countries now realise the positive impact of tourism on the economy.

“But I feel positive about this campaign and we should continue to promote Malaysia actively.”

Besides, Ngiam says, all sectors from Tourism Malaysia, the Tourism Ministry, and public and private entities are doing as much as possible to make Visit Malaysia 2007 a success.

Hence he sees the follow-up to this momentum as pertinent. While Malaysia may not have many new products to offer, it must deliver a positive and delightful experience for its guests.

“People will come back if they enjoy their stay in the country. So we must ensure their stay is hassle-free and enjoyable,” he says.

As for improvement, Ngiam would like to see greater coordination efforts between the relevant agencies.

“It would be good to see such efforts continue beyond 2007. We need to get everyone to think tourism and act accordingly,” he says.

Changing people's mindset is one of the things that local travel agent Anne Obagarasamy feels is important to ensure that it will achieve the Government’s target.

“We need to have more promotions to ensure that tourists are aware of Visit Malaysia 2007. Many are still not,” she says.

Providing clean public facilities and efficient services is important. The common complaints are dirty toilets and the lack of information and signages in town.

“I still have clients coming to the agency and complaining of being overcharged by taxi drivers,” says Obagarasamy who has been in the travel industry for 15 years.

She says there should be more cooperation between all parties involved as they are closely linked to each other.

“Basically, if all of us work closely together, many of the minor problems can be ironed out and we can have a smooth and successful year for everyone,” she says.

Source : STAR
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