Expanding multilingual services at airport help desks


A break finally: A Chinese tourist holding his passport at KLIA. — AZHAR MAHFOF/The Star

PETALING JAYA: Tourism Malaysia is hoping to enhance its services at help desks in international airports around the country to provide multilingual consultation services to visitors, says Tourism Malaysia director-general Datuk Ammar Abd Ghapar.

He said these tourism help desks were available at Kuala Lumpur International Airport Terminal 1 and Terminal 2, and airports in Penang, Johor, Sabah and Sarawak.

Currently, the main languages used are English and Chinese, and some of the staff have basic knowledge of Tamil.

A check at KLIA found that the staff would rotate on three shifts daily.

There would be three people manning each counter at every shift.

Following the government’s move to allow citizens from China and India to visit the country on 30-day visa-free travel starting Dec 1, Ammar said the help desk would align with efforts to welcome these visitors.

In an interview, Ammar said that Tourism Malaysia would evaluate the number of inbound tourists each month to assess the economic benefits of the visa-free policy.

“For now, it is too early to draw any conclusion,” he said.

He said Malaysia aimed to attract more Chinese visitors to previous peak tourism numbers.

Additionally, he noted the increasing number of Indian tourists coming to Malaysia and expressed optimism for further growth.

On the part of the Agriculture and Food Security Ministry, it is hoping to capitalise on the visa-free measure to encourage these tourists to come to Malaysia and experience the varieties of durian in the country.

Its deputy minister Datuk Chan Foong Hin said many of the durians in Malaysia remained unknown to foreign tourists.

With the convenience of visa-free travel, he said, tourists could visit Malaysian durian orchards to sample the different varieties of this fruit.

“From an agricultural standpoint, our department takes pride in showcasing durians to more tourists and consumers,” he said.

But he also hoped that these visitors would try out other tropical fruits here as well.

As for the tourism operators, they are planning more travel packages to attract Chinese and Indian nationals.

Malaysia Inbound Chinese Association president Datuk Dr Angie Ng hoped that these tourists would appreciate Malaysia’s agricultural and culinary tourism, among others.

Moreover, Chinese and Indian tourists loved Malaysia’s island tourism, she said.

Other favourite attractions included Sabah’s national parks, Semporna, and Mount Kinabalu, she added.

She said many visitors enjoyed nature-based tourism, adding that tour operators could also arrange for durian and mangosteen tasting in durian orchards, and exploring plants and insects in Taman Negara.

Inbound Tourism Alliance chairman Uzaidi Udanis shared that many Chinese and Indian tourists were interested in experiencing Malaysian village life and culinary delights.

As for the Indian market, Uzaidi said the visa-free policy for Indian tourists would allow many of these nationals to extend their stay and explore the country after arriving here to attend weddings of their relatives or friends.

He hoped for government support in the form of tax exemptions for the tourism industry, specifically income tax exemptions for tour operators attracting a certain number of tourists.

The visa liberalisation plan, which took effect on Dec 1, will end on Dec 31 next year.

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