Teach them some manners

It is equally important for the authorities to keep the tourists abreast with local customs and how they should conduct themselves


THE Visit Malaysia Year 2020 (VMY2020) logo which was unveiled this week seems to be the main discussion among many Malaysians. Some shared their grouses and comments on various social media platforms, particularly on how simplistic the design is and how the slogan is “wrongly worded”.

Well, this is not the first time brickbats are thrown at the Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board (Tourism Malaysia).

In January last year, an earlier version of the VMY2020 logo was lambasted and ridiculed and deemed juvenile by the more discerning (and critical) quarters. It was deemed “cheap, hideous and a joke”.

The logo — featuring the Petronas Twin Towers; an Orangutan, a proboscis monkey and a turtle (all wearing sunglasses); as well as a palm tree (how creative can one get in a design?) was unveiled by the then Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz at the Asean Tourism Forum in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

The harsh criticism led to a petition which was apparently signed by 8,000 people who called for a change of the artwork.

After ditching that logo, the tourism authority was pretty sure that it had come out with a better one, which Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad unveiled on Monday. Under the new logo, which features a hornbill, a hibiscus and a fern leaf, is the proud tagline “Visit Truly Asia Malaysia 2020”.

Despite having garnered good feedback on the look and feel of the logo, some quarters somehow questioned the usage of English in the slogan.

Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Mohamaddin Ketapi fired back, saying only those “who were not wellversed with the language would deem the phrasing wrong”.

That statement, however, did not go down well with some netizens. Discussion is ongoing on various platforms and one suspects that it would not stop any time soon.

Maybe one should look up the meaning of “adjective phrase” and examples like “The exceptionally dazzling lady smiles at me”.

It is sad that the discussion revolves around the grammar and logo, and not the agenda to attract 30 million foreigners to choose our country as their playground next year. The question that should be asked, is are we ready to allure these visitors?

As it is, Tourism Malaysia have doubled its efforts on local and international promotions since early last year to generate more than RM80 billion in tourist receipts, which include optimising the use of information and communications technology to promote the country.

While all these initiatives are in place to woo tourists, the other important aspect is the government’s effort to improve all the little detail that would put everyone at ease, while heightening the comfort of our foreign visitors.

For instance, among the top places that many tourists are interested in are religious sites that are located in various parts of the country. While they are major attractions to local and foreign visitors, it is equally important for the authorities to keep the tourists abreast with local customs and how they should conduct themselves.

Last year, a video showing two foreign tourists dancing provocatively in front of the gate of the Kota Kinabalu City Mosque in Likas went viral, which angered Malaysians in general. While the female Chinese nationals in the video thought it was okay, they failed to realise that they had committed an offence for acting inappropriately within the vicinity of the mosque.

This is a clear example that tourists need to be reminded of the dos and don’ts to avoid any cultural faux pas, as well as to ensure that they do not ruffle any feathers among their hosts.

In order to achieve this, the authorities should work with tour agency operators, tour guides, bus operators and the management of places of interest to educate the tourists on observing proper conduct.

Fortunately, our situation is not as bad as Thailand. Several years ago, it was reported that a tourist identified as a Chinese national was filmed kicking a sacred bell at a temple in Chiang Mai. Then, there were also reports of tourists relieving themselves in public in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, which sparked complaints among locals and other foreign tourists.

In fact, in 2015, a famous temple in Chiang Rai built separate toilets for Thais and other non-Chinese tourists after Chinese tourists apparently made lavatories unusable for others. The temple officials had received complaints about grossly inconsiderate behaviour by Chinese tourists, who allegedly defecated on the floor, urinated on the walls outside and left sanitary pads on the walls of the bathrooms.

Prior to these incidents, the temple had even banned Chinese tourists altogether after Chinese tour groups left the toilets in a state of disrepair.

Perhaps, we should emulate the Thai authorities by putting together an etiquette manual in Mandarin and distributing them to these tourists, educating them on the proper way of “doing their business”.

As we usher in our guests next year (with the hope that they would help us boost our economy), we must also remember that our culture and pride should also remain intact.

Rahman Daros is the supplement editor of The Malaysian Reserve.