IS the private sector ready to play a bigger role in promoting tourism, both inbound and outbound?
This is the question those involved in the local tourism industry must first ask themselves honestly.
However, this is not to say that they are not interested in getting more tourists to visit Malaysia or to encourage the locals to travel abroad.
Of course they are keen to do so as this will mean more business.
But the pertinent point is that are they doing enough to push for a bigger share of the tourist cake if they wish to make the cut?
It is useless to just keep on saying that they want to promote tourism without putting enough effort to turn this into reality.
The travel agents, those in the hospitality industry such as hotels, restaurants and shopping complexes are the main beneficiaries if there should be an increase in tourist arrivals.
To most of our travel agents, it would appear that they are interested only in selling more airline tickets to earn their commission or to get people to participate in their tour packages.
If you should just visit some of these travel agencies, you will find that many of their workers are poorly informed of what attractions are available to visitors, especially foreign ones.
There is also a shortage of information material in such outlets making it extremely difficult for foreigners to get at least a rough idea of what is on offer.
Even in some of the centres set up by the Tourism Malaysia, the agency charged with promoting the industry, there is also a lack of such publicity material for visitors.
This is therefore quite frustrating for those requiring such information and they will need to depend on themselves to find out more about local attractions.
Those responsible for the promotion of tourism should learn from other similar organisations on how to do this.
For example, they should take a leaf from the Australian operators who have turned such campaigns to sell their country and even their states into an art.
If you should just contact any of the local office of a tourist agency of any state and ask for information, you will be inundated with beautifully-printed brochures giving you detailed information of all you need to know and the places you wish to visit.
Their workers are courteous and can answer almost any query on spots to visit, accommodation, transportation and detailed maps of the state.
It is no surprise that tourism is doing so well in Australia.
It is such a pleasure to deal with them and the Australians involved in the tourism industry Down Under are so helpful and friendly that many visitors will make return visits.
In addition, the Aussies are so particular about their environment and cleanliness that almost all the public amenities are well maintained and this certainly rates highly with visitors.
To them, promotion and the good service provided to visitors go together as success in tourism cannot be achieved in isolation. It needs the active support of both the public and private sector.
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