PAPER | In business practices, cherry picking means choosing the best customers and rejecting the rest. In this sense, metered taxi drivers were known for picking passengers and rides
However, they no longer monopolize the service as e-hailing apps started offering better drivers, newer vehicles and lower fares.
In the past, instead of using the meter as required, some taxi drivers charged exorbitant fares and passengers had to take it or leave it. Even when meters were used, they could be programmed by technicians at taxi meter companies to clock in faster and display higher fares.
Therefore, fare fixing was not always initiated by taxis, but also by smart tourists who were prepared to pay up to 50 percent more than normal fares and not use the meter which could be several times more. Otherwise, passengers will have to cough up the fare shown on the meter or fight.
Recently, Sarawak Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg said that tourism players should focus on attracting premium tourists, rather than mass tourists, who would not mind spending more to get good services during their stay. them in the state.
He said, “For Sarawak, we go for premium (premium tourists). That is why we organize business events and have organized () Rainforest (World Music Festival to attract tourists). These are special tourists; they are not mass tourists.”
The next day, Minister of Tourism, Creative Industries and Performing Arts Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah stated that the ministry does 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 scribble on the cave walls and some even take stones with them. “This can damage our treasures, that’s why we want quality tourists, local or foreign, and this has been our policy from the beginning.”
So, Sarawak will embark on a two-pronged approach. One is to target high-spending tourists and the other is to ensure responsible tourism, which has not been quite successful, as Abdul Karim himself stated that this has been the policy from the beginning.
However, all issues can be better addressed when there is a clearer understanding of what tourism and recreational activities are, and the difference between foreign tourists and domestic visitors. It would be unfair and even counterproductive to paint the issues with a broad brush.
Tourism: A multi-layered industry
While attending the training, most industry players would be at a loss for words when asked to define tourism. Those trying would give academic answers which they have read or studied in a tourism program, but the travel staff must go from theory to practice.
As a trainer, I would tell travel and tour operators that they should look at tourism as a big business that includes major sectors such as airlines, road and rail transport, accommodation, food and beverage, entertainment, attractions and shopping, and they overlap a lot. other industries.
Therefore, tourism expenditure is even more important than the number of people and the average length of stay is more important than the simple figures of tourist arrivals. Interestingly, in 2019, Saudi Arabia and China were among the top five countries for spending per capita and per day in Malaysia.
According to a comprehensive survey by the Department of Statistics, there were 239.1 million domestic visitors who made 332.4 million trips and spent RM103.2 billion in 2019.
But all these figures vary by travel and tour operators, as spending was on shopping, motor fuel, food and drink, family visits, accommodation, transport and others, with 3.1 per cent on entry fees or bookable packages easily directly with providers.
In other words, domestic tourism has little to do with travel and tour operators as 98.5 percent of domestic visitors use ground transportation, with most traveling in their own vehicles. They spent RM15.5 billion on automobile fuel alone, the second highest expenditure.
The main purpose for traveling within the country was visiting relatives and friends (42.3 percent), shopping (35.4 percent), vacation, leisure or relaxation (9.0 percent), entertainment, attending special events or sports (4.0 percent), medical treatment or welfare (4.0 percent), and the rest combined (5.3 percent).
Almost all local travelers do do-it-yourself (DIY) arrangements that might include a walk to a beach or waterfall. These are not tourism, but recreational activities in public spaces that are free of charge and bring little or no profit to the tour operators.
But if these visitors were left unattended or unmonitored, vandalism could occur, such as leaving graffiti on the wall or taking items as souvenirs. If it is a folk heritage site, security guards should be present or at least monitor what is happening using CCTV.
If they are precious natural sites such as prehistoric caves, visitors should be accompanied by nature guides to practice responsible tourism and ensure that nothing is harmed or damaged. It is up to the authorities to enact legislation to protect our natural treasures from desecration.
Otherwise, it would be impossible to tell in advance who might cause damage intentionally or accidentally, and who are the high-spending tourists. Although those who came to attend business events usually stay in five-star hotels, they may not spend on shopping.
While many leisure tourists staying in resort-class hotels spent large sums of money on shopping, foreign tourists spent more on shopping than accommodation, food and drink combined, and even more so for domestic visitors.
All tourists are good tourists
While it’s good to go upmarket, we shouldn’t discount travelers on a budget until there’s a glut of tourists. But there is a shortage of tourists everywhere and the existing facilities were in place to handle the huge volume in 2019 and for Visit Malaysia Year 2020, which was cancelled.
Tourism is a volume game. A massive ecosystem drawing synergy from a variety of facilities is needed to ensure its vibrancy and sustainability. Whether they are high-spending or budget-friendly. all tourists would be delighted to see and enjoy their personal choices.
Likewise, we have industry players that cater to various niche markets. For accommodation, some prefer to offer five-star facilities, others budget or boutique 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 wish to buy. They can do similar things within their groups, but it would be boring if everyone else is just like them.
So what we need to do is offer the greatest variety and think that all tourists are good tourists. We should not doubt whether mass tourism or passengers traveling on budget flights or guests staying in budget hotels have money to spend or will act responsibly wherever they go.
Also, we should not look down on backpackers. They have money to spend but they want to last longer and immerse themselves in the country. If the people in a small town or village could treat them kindly, some might come back later as big investors to pay the people back.
Most backpackers have just finished their studies and want to see the world before building their careers. They travel with their eyes and hearts open in order to graduate from the “University of Life,” and many of them will emerge as top corporate leaders within a decade or two.
Tourism is long-term business and many tourists make repeat visits. Visiting friends and relatives in Malaysia was the main purpose for 21.4 percent of all foreign tourists in 2015, 18.9 percent in 2016, 24.8 percent in 2017, 19.8 percent in 2018 and 25.5 percent in the first half of 2019.
All tourists should be welcomed and the whole of Malaysia should be recognized as tourist friendly. First impressions always make a lasting impression and the last thing we want is for immigration officers to make visitors feel unwelcome by being unnecessarily suspicious.
Until we have more tourists than we can handle, we shouldn’t be picky. If a particular tourist spot like a small island is overcrowded, then it’s time to market to reduce the number of visitors 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.