Cherry-picking tourists could delay the rejuvenation of the area

LETTER | In business practices, selective sorting means choosing the best customers and rejecting the others. In this sense, metered taxi drivers were known to choose passengers and routes

However, they no longer monopolize the service after email apps started offering better drivers, newer vehicles and lower rates.

In the past, instead of using the meter as mandatory, some taxi drivers set exorbitant fares and passengers had to take it or leave it. Even when meters were used, they could be programmed by taxi meter company technicians to clock in faster and display higher fares.

Therefore, fare setting was not always initiated by taxi drivers, but also by smart tourists who were willing to pay up to 50% more than normal fares and not use the meter that can time several times longer. Otherwise, passengers will have to spit out the fare shown on the meter or quarrel.

Recently, Sarawak Prime Minister Abang Johari Openg said that tourism stakeholders should focus on attracting high-end tourists, rather than mass tourists, who would not hesitate to spend more to get good services during their stay in the state.

He said: “For Sarawak, we go for primes (premium tourists). That’s why we organize professional events and we organized (the) Rainforest (World Music Festival to attract tourists). They are special tourists; they are not mass tourists”.

The next day, the Minister of Tourism, Creative Industry and Performing Arts, Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah, said the ministry did not want the state to be too open to tourists, as it could attract irresponsible people who could damage Sarawak’s treasures.

He noted that many tourists occasionally doodled on the cave walls and some even carried stones with them. “It can harm our treasures, that’s why we want quality tourists, whether local or foreign, and that’s been our policy from the beginning.”

Thus, Sarawak will embark on a two-pronged approach. One is to target spendthrift tourists and the other is to ensure responsible tourism, which has not been entirely successful, as Abdul Karim himself said that was the policy from the start.

Nevertheless, all issues could be better addressed when there is a better understanding of what tourism and recreational activities are, and the difference between foreign tourists and local visitors. It would be unfair and even counterproductive if things were painted with a wide brush.

Tourism: a multi-level industry

During the training, most industry players would be at a loss for words when asked to define tourism. Those who would attempt would give academic answers that they have read or studied in a tourism program, but travel staff would have to move from theory to practice.

As a trainer, I would say to tour operators and tour operators that they should think of tourism as a big business that includes major sectors such as airlines, road and rail transport, accommodation, catering, entertainment, attractions and shopping, and they overlap with many other industries.

As a result, tourist expenditure is even more important than numbers and average lengths of stay are more important than tourist arrival figures alone. Interestingly, in 2019, Saudi Arabia and China were among the top five countries for spending per capita per day in Malaysia.

According to an in-depth survey by the Department of Statistics, 239.1 million domestic visitors made 332.4 million trips and spent RM103.2 billion in 2019.

But all of these figures vary by travel and tour operators, as spending was on shopping, car fuel, food and beverages, household visits, accommodation, transportation and other, with 3.1% for expenses. entry fees or packages that could easily be booked directly with suppliers.

In other words, domestic tourism has little to do with travel and tour operators since 98.5% of domestic visitors use land transport, most of them traveling in their own vehicle. They spent RM15.5 billion on car fuel alone, the second highest expense.

The main reasons for domestic trips were visiting relatives and friends (42.3%), shopping (35.4%), vacations, leisure or relaxation (9.0%), entertainment, attendance at special events or sports (4.0%), medical care or wellness (4.0%) and the rest combined (5.3%).

Almost all domestic travelers make do-it-yourself arrangements which may include a beach or waterfall trip. This is not tourism but recreational activities in public spaces that are free and bring little or no benefit to tourism operators.

But if these visitors were left unattended or unattended, vandalism could occur, such as leaving graffiti on a wall or taking items away as souvenirs. If it’s a popular heritage site, security guards should be present or at least keep an eye on what’s going on using CCTV.

If they are valuable natural sites such as prehistoric caves, visitors should be accompanied by naturalist guides to practice responsible tourism and ensure that nothing is damaged or damaged. It is up to the authorities to introduce legislation to protect our natural treasures from desecration.

Otherwise, it would be impossible to say in advance who might intentionally or accidentally cause damage, and who are the biggest spenders. Although those who came to attend business events normally stay in five-star hotels, they may not be spending on purchases.

While many tourists staying in tourist-class hotels spent large sums of money on shopping, foreign tourists spent more on shopping than on accommodation, food and drink combined, and even more on domestic visitors.

All tourists are good tourists

While it’s good to go for the high end, don’t discount budget travelers until there’s a tourist glut. But there is a shortage of tourists everywhere and existing facilities were in place to cope with the large volume in 2019 and for Visit Malaysia Year 2020, which was cancelled.

Tourism is a volume game. A massive ecosystem drawing synergies from a variety of facilities is needed to ensure its dynamism and sustainability. Whether they spend a lot or have a small budget. all tourists would appreciate when they could see and be satisfied with their personal choices.

Similarly, we have industry players that cater to different niche markets. For accommodation, some prefer to offer five-star establishments, others budget or charming hotels. For restaurants, they can be fine dining, fast food, or street food, and together they offer countless cuisines.

Tourists travel to see different places, people, buildings, and sights, hear unfamiliar sounds and languages, experience exotic foods and smells, and touch things they want to buy. They can do similar things within their groups, but it would be boring if everyone is like them.

So what we have to do is offer the greatest variety and think that all tourists are good tourists. We should have no doubt that mass tourism or passengers traveling on budget flights or customers staying in budget hotels have the money to spend or act responsibly wherever they go.

Also, we shouldn’t despise backpackers. They have money to spend, except they want to stretch it out longer and soak up the place. If people in a small town or village could treat them kindly, some might come back later as major investors to pay people back.

Most backpackers are fresh out of school and want to see the world before building their career. They travel with wide open eyes and hearts in order to graduate from the “University of Life,” and many of them will become top business leaders within a decade or two.

Tourism is a long-term job and many tourists make repeat visits. Visiting friends and relatives in Malaysia was the main purpose of 21.4% of all foreign tourists in 2015, 18.9% in 2016, 24.8% in 2017, 19.8% in 2018 and 25.5% in the first half of 2019.

All tourists should be welcome and all of Malaysia should be recognized as welcoming to tourists. First impressions always form a lasting impression and the last thing we want is for immigration officials to make visitors feel unwelcome by being unnecessarily suspicious.

Until we get more tourists than we can accommodate, we shouldn’t be choosy. If a particular tourist spot like a small island is overcrowded, then it’s time to upscale to reduce visitor numbers without losing revenue. Until then, all tourists should be considered good tourists.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.