Sunday April 22, 2012
Tourism beyond profits
THE DPM’s officiation has effectively showcased our commitment to PATA, and the Malaysian Government’s dedication to us, Tourism Minister Dato’ Sri Dr Ng Yen Yen told The Star at the event opening yesterday.
Highlighting several key factors that directly affect the tourism industry in Malaysia in the long run, Dr Ng acknowledged PATA’s influence over the international arena of tourism.
“PATA must take a strong stand on contentious issues to bring its members together. What we need now is for the fraternity to put its minds together. Whatever PATA says, everyone listens. We will promote and encourage participation,” she said.
Environmental factors and a shared sense of social responsibility by all Malaysian citizens can make tourism an agent of change for the country, which in turn will have a positive effect on the nation’s economy, she added.
“Overseas friends must be able to trust us enough to come here. Tourism should be discussed more from elementary; it should be in students’ syllabus. Things like climate change and how it affects our tourism industry should be ingrained in our youths,” Dr Ng stressed.
Awareness is needed to engage the younger generation to take on an active role in the tourism industry, especially as they are social media-savvy.
“Awareness brings forth interest and desire, which leads to action,” she noted.
She refuted the perception that upscaling the tourism industry will only benefit the super rich.
“The truth is, it affects grassroots service providers such as waiters, caddy drivers, spa therapists and so on. People have to understand that it is every citizen’s responsibility to be directly or indirectly involved in the industry. At the moment, we are facing a shortage of 6,000 spa therapists!
“That’s what responsible tourism is all about – citizens have to get involved. If it’s just the Ministry that’s doing the thinking, without the people, the country won’t improve. It’s a combined effort,” said Dr Ng.
Dr Ng intimated that Malaysia’s bagging of three PATA Gold Awards (among a total of 27 other accolades that went to the Hong Kong Tourism Board and Tourism Authority of Thailand) this year came as a surprise to her.
“It never crossed my mind that I would be given this honour, but for that, I am grateful that in being Tourism Minister, I understand the intricacies involved. People tend to associate tourism with leisure, but the burden is in orchestrating the game plan. I really want the rural folk to be a part of it so that they can be empowered,” she said.
She called on industry players to meet the changing demands of the tourism industry.
“The world is very different today than it was decades ago. Before this, people waited till they reached their 40s to travel, perhaps, once a year. Today, young people travel all the time, several times a year, in fact,” she said.
It is now about the packages we can give to travellers, Dr Ng added. “The ministry can’t package deals – and that in itself spells opportunity for the private sector. The government’s role is to build the platform and bring the tourists in. You, help globe-trotters experience Malaysia.”