Make every tourist feel welcome, says top Tourism Malaysia official
Published on: Monday, January 13, 2020
By: David Thien
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KOTA KINABALU: Every Malaysian has a duty to make domestic and foreign tourists feel welcome during Visit Malaysia Year 2020 (VM 2020) and Sabah is an important State with unique natural attractions and people to meet Malaysia’s target of RM100 billion in revenue from 30 million tourists.

Tourism Malaysia Senior Director (Domestic & Events Division) Dato’ Dr Ammar Abd Ghapar (pic), who is the Head of Secretariat VM2020, said this to Daily Express, in response to a question on instances in Sabah where some 20 Chinese tourists ended up spending their holidays in detention last year due to having no entry stamp on their passports upon arrival at KKIA.

He reminded that no less than the Prime Minister deemed it a national duty for all Malaysians to promote Malaysia to make VM 2020 a success.

“If every Malaysian invites one or more foreign friends from overseas to visit Malaysia, the target of 30 million is achievable,” he said.

However, he would not comment on policy matters of other departments experienced by tourists as was reported by the media.

“My responsibility is in promoting VM2020. We have a ‘Mesra Malaysia’ training for the front liners including working with Customs and Immigration Departments for the good image of Malaysia, and for Sabah with a goal to welcome at least four million tourists,” he said, on the importance of having quality human resource.

“Before we had a programme called ‘Malaysia welcomes the World’ as a friendly reminder to all the staff and front liners when accepting or receiving tourists. Now ‘Mesra Malaysia’ is also training the front liners to be courteous when receiving tourists. This is a policy under the Ministry of Tourism. We are working with Customs. We are working with Immigration as well,” he said.

“We have a campaign called ‘Think Tourism, Act Tourism’ for Malaysians as the industry is an important contributor to the economy. We want everybody involved and have a sense of belonging to share the effort and the responsibility. It is our responsibility to make sure they (tourists) are happy here and they want to come again.”

In line with this and as Sabah state is one of the biggest beneficiaries of the tourism boom, Dato’ Dr Ammar said efforts are ongoing to increase direct and connecting airlines flights to Sabah, including chartered flights to boost tourist arrivals.

“Accessibility is very important,” he said, as evident by the East Asian tourism market growth in Sabah connected by direct flights. We are going to participate in all the travel fairs in the world to encourage more tourists to come. Providing information is very important, other than available online.”

“Getting more direct flights to Sabah is one of our aims and it depends on the reciprocal factor. Airlines are doing this as a business. There must also be more Malaysians travelling to the destinations from where the airlines come from. It cannot just be a one-way traffic and in Sabah it’s more of the chartered flight arrangement. 

“The numbers in inbound and outbound tourism have to be about equal so it moves both ways. Malaysia Airports Holding Berhad (MAHB) is also doing their marketing to get more direct flights.”

There are also joint international tourism promotional programmes with MAHB and airlines on the viability of routes. “It has to be a two-way transaction in a win-win situation.” 

The Europe tourist market gives more yield in terms of currency exchange rate and length of stay, and efforts are ongoing by Tourism Malaysia to dispel negative perception brought about by past travel advisories.

“These are some of the obstacles and challenges faced,” he said, looking at the long-haul market like Europe and middle-haul as well as focusing on Asean as a middle range market.

Dato’ Dr. Ammar Abd Ghapar said 2020 could be a tough year as the other countries including neighbouring ones in Asean are also promoting their attractions and competition is intense, hence Malaysians must be able to offer better tourism products and make tourists feel welcome.

He said Tourism Malaysia has done all the arrangements and the promotions to make VM 2020 a success. The players have also introduced a lot of new packages to attract more tourists.



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