By Karen Bong
KUCHING, Feb 23: Limitations such as disallowing bikinis in swimming pools, unnecessary fuss over Timah whiskey and lack of standout tourism products and offerings are stifling the travel experience in Malaysia, says Puncak Borneo MP Datuk Willie Mongin.
Raising this, Willie wondered how Malaysia could compete with other more open-minded countries like Thailand, Indonesia and other Asian countries to attract more travellers to the country considering the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture’s (Motac) target of achieving 16.1 million visitor arrivals in 2023.
“I want to seek an explanation (on how to achieve that) when most of the tourism products in Malaysia do not stand out when compared to Thailand, Indonesia or even any other Asian countries.
“Travellers including ourselves when we travel overseas, we want to have freedom, a memorable experience and to be able to enjoy ourselves. But in Malaysia, sometimes people cannot even swim in the pool using bikinis and even Timah liquor has become an issue,” he said when addressing the question to Motac Minister Dato Sri Tiong King Sing in Parliament, Kuala Lumpur today.
In addition, he also pointed out that most tourist attractions in Malaysia are more towards historical sites and cultural aspects which are not attractive for new and younger generations especially.
“I don’t think they want to see these things anymore. They want something new. We need to think of tourism products that can stand out and not be out of date or trend. So how will the Ministry re-innovate and upgrade our tourism products,” he asked.
In reply, Tiong gave assurance to meet and sit down with colleagues from “the other side” (Islamic-ruled states) to discuss how to approach the matter.
“I am confident we can sit down with members from the opposite bench (how we can work this out).
“Saudi Arabia is a good example where it was once closed-minded (conservative) and everything is closed by 5pm but now they can do everything. Being open-minded is important because not everything must touch on religion as Malaysia is a multiracial country,” he said.
Tiong also admitted that there are many attractions which are in poor shape in Malaysia and for that, the Ministry will request for more allocations to upgrade as many tourism facilities and infrastructure in order to attract more domestic and foreign visitors.
“We must work as one family to achieve peace and harmony. Motac will collaborate and cooperate with all relevant agencies, department and State governments to ensure sustainable growth and progress of the tourism, arts and culture sector in Malaysia,” he added. — DayakDaily