Doing one without the other won’t work in tourism

The beauty of a place must be complimented by the hospitality that is offered


VISIT Malaysia Year (VMY) 2020 is just a few months away. Preparations are no doubt underway to make the campaign a huge success. The previous VMY campaigns were successful in putting Malaysia on the tourism destination map and attracting inbound tourists.

There’s big money to be made for the sector from such campaigns. Putrajaya has set a target of 30 million tourist arrivals during VMY2020 and RM100 billion in tourist receipts.

The first VMY in 1990 attracted some 7.4 million tourists while the VMY2007 attracted 20.97 million foreigners and RM46.1 billion in tourist receipts.

The VMY2014 brought 25.7 million visitors to the country with RM69.1 billion in tourist receipts collected, according to Tourism Malaysia.

Last year, the country welcomed some 25.8 million tourists and collected RM84 billion in tourist receipts.

In many ways, the VMY campaign acts as a brand building exercise for the country as a tourism destination that has much to offer and value for money.

Part of the Malaysian brand is the food, the multi-ethnic people, their friendliness, the variety of destinations and the choice of hotels.

Many people buy into the visuals and narrative travel agents and tourism campaign present. It is more prevalent now with marketing and bookings done online.

Holiday goers hope when they book a room or go to a location, it would meet their expectations.

The listing on travel websites often give you the visual that sometimes fails to match the truth.

Hence, managing the brand Malaysia as a tourist haven requires some effort from all.

Speaking from a domestic tourist point of view after visiting Langkawi and Port Dickson in the past four months, the government and sector players have some catching up to do over the next four months to ensure brand Malaysia delivers its promises in VMY2020.

The upkeep of some older hotels is a major concern and service levels need to improve quickly. The respective rooms booked at both locations had issues despite being reputable brand names.

The culture of neglect is not just confined to infrastructure and buildings.

The beaches in both locations have great promises but require some investment.

Langkawi’s iconic Cenang Beach can do with some housekeeping due to development underway and the level of traffic the island gets, while the beaches and hotels in Port Dickson need some urgent action.

The bulk of the litter thrown by locals and traders along the beaches are partly due to the lack of garbage bins and the typical lack of civic consciousness.

The one person who was making an effort to pick up some plastic bottles brought in by the tide in Port Dickson was a Korean tourist who probably didn’t think this would be something in his itinerary when he visited this country.

The MP of both locations are the two most politically powerful men in the country. Hopefully, they will have the “Midas” touch to change their constituencies.

“Our hospitality is not just a slogan, but it must be transformed into reality through everyone’s joint efforts. The beauty of a place will attract, but it is the hospitality that makes people stay and return, and this hospitality must be inculcated into the nature and culture of our people,” Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was quoted as saying at the launch of the VMY2020 recently.

He should also mention that the beauty of a place must be complimented by the hospitality that is offered. Or else, even paradise looks dim, dull and unattractive.

Bhupinder Singh is the corporate desk editor of The Malaysian Reserve.