We must learn from Middle Eastern countries to boost tourism sector, says minister

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia must learn from Muslim countries in the Middle East to be more open-minded with regard to the tourism sector, says Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing.

The Tourism, Arts, and Culture Minister said this after the "no bikini" and "Timah" whiskey issues were raised by Datuk Willie Mongin (Puncak Borneo-GPS) in Parliament to show that such incidents could hamper the tourism sector.

"When we visit another country, we want to have an experience and a special moment to enjoy ourselves.

"But in Malaysia, when the tourists come here, they want to swim at the swimming pools in their bikinis, it is prohibited.

"Even whiskey brand 'Timah' also became an issue," he said when raising the matter to Tiong who was wrapping up his ministerial replies in the Dewan Rakyat on Thursday (Feb 23).

He said that it would be hard for the nation's tourism sector to be competitive with other countries in such an environment.

In October 2021, there was an uproar among some Muslims, particularly PAS MPs, over the use of the name "Timah" for a locally produced whiskey as being offensive to Muslims.

The company had explained that Timah was a reference to the tin-mining era and it had used the image of Captain Speedy, who had introduced the drinking of whiskey in the country.

The matter was resolved with the company allowed to keep the name of its alcoholic drink.

In January this year, the Melaka Islamic Religious Affairs Department (JAIM) called for action to be taken against those indecently dressed at an island resort.

The call was made after a three-minute video of some beachgoers wearing bikinis on Pulau Besar which was shared on social media in December last year.

In response, Tiong acknowledged the challenge in promoting the tourism sector here as mentioned by Willie.

"I will sit with my counterparts from the other side and Muslim MPs to see how we can learn from the Arabs and Middle Eastern countries on how to be open-minded.

"Those days, people used to say that they were close-minded and most of their shops closed at 5pm.

"Now, you can do everything there, they have become open-minded," he said.

Tiong reminded MPs not to turn everything into a religious issue.

He noted that Malaysia was a multicultural society which must learn to work together for the betterment of the nation.

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