How not to do ‘Visit Malaysia Year’

MAY 8 — I work in the news but these days I wake up thinking, “Do I have to read the news?” 

Yes, we are in the land of politicians saying extremely stupid things way before the US president was tweeting but the hubbub around tourism efforts is ridiculous.

Our main problem is perhaps we take ourselves a wee bit too seriously. The aim of tourism efforts is to get foreigners to come, spend money, tell their friends and come back.

Marketing efforts are really, when it really comes down to it, just money we spend to tell people we have great food, great beaches, great (usually) people so come here and stay already.

The problem is the Malaysian way is doing it half-past-six style — a tiny bit of effort, done as quickly as possible and to profit as many people as possible. Except maybe the poor tourists.

Of course the simplest way to solve all our tourism headaches is: stop getting stupid people to do it. Really. Almost every senior person I’ve heard talking about tourism these days has just one ability — making my eyes roll.

If we want to be a venue to attract concertgoers, then make the concert experience great. 

In reality, our venues are dismal and shabby and then we have PAS Youth throwing tantrums when the likes of Selena Gomez shows up. Even Beyonce decided we just weren’t the trouble and took her show elsewhere.

If we want people to care about our street food, stop whining about ours being better than Singapore’s and maybe actually prove it? But no, the Malaysian food culture, whether you run an upscale dessert joint or roadside stall is to tell people who complain about the food or service, “Go somewhere else to eat lah.” Obviously tourists did.

Stop making everything a money-making scheme already. Every time we have some tourism campaign, it’s not to promote the country as much as it is to fatten up some cousin’s best friend’s son-in-law who won a lucrative contract.

I think the tourism scene here has to be run by people who care about our country, care about tourism and not the people who only care about getting rich. 

Sadly the latter describes most of our past and present politicians so what is a Malaysian to do?

Let’s also take time to remember that past icon of our tourism efforts, the leatherback turtle, which has now gone missing from our shores because Malaysians won’t stop bothering them/killing them/eating their eggs.

I think what the average Malaysian, and probably our leaders, need to do to improve tourism and maybe our future as a country in general is this: grow a conscience. And a spine. Then maybe people will stop believing Singapore’s chilli crab is any good.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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