Tourism minister: Hire more multilingual airport staff to assist foreigners, reduce slow immigration queues

Travellers are seen queuing at the immigration counter in KLIA. Photo credit: Photo credit: Dato' Sri Tiong King Sing's Facebook page.

KUCHING, March 5: Multilingual staff are needed to assist in language interpretation for international visitors at airports to avoid miscommunication that results in slow immigration queues.

Malaysian Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture (MOTAC) Dato Sri Tiong King Sing said his ministry has received feedback that many international visitors especially those arriving in the early morning hours, do not get sufficient help in terms of language interpretation.

“This has led to much miscommunication, resulting in slow immigration queues and worse, visitors who are at risk of being declared ‘Not To Land’ (NTL) and deported unnecessarily,” he said in a social media post today.

Thus, he urged Ministry of Home Affairs (MOHA) to seriously review the matter and urged Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad (MAHB) to bolster its staff with more interpreters fluent in at least Mandarin, Tamil and Arabic languages.

Tiong noted that MAHB does currently have staff who can speak Mandarin, Tamil and Arabic but pointed out that more are needed as passengers still experience language barriers with non-native speakers of Mandarin and Tamil who may not correctly interpret the nuances of those languages.

He also said it is not wrong to hire a more multiculturally or multiracially diverse staff force who can speak their mother tongues to visitors from India, China, and the Middle East for instance.

“Likewise, the Immigration Department must appoint more multi-racial officers on the ground at entry points like Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) to prevent miscommunication problems. Both Immigration and MAHB and other ministries must work together to tackle these and other related issues.

“This is important if we want tourists to feel (that) we welcome them as a nation. This is our main objective (which is) to portray the best image of Malaysia as a good place to visit. We don’t want any more misinterpretation that mars their travelling experience here.

“On the same token, I want to also urge MAHB to dedicate human resources or other facilities to help genuine foreigner travellers resolve issues such as buying return tickets, managing hotel booking or even buying SIM cards that could otherwise lead to their NTL,” he added. — DayakDaily