Thursday, May 3, 2007

Arabs complain of fleecing by cabbies and dirty beaches

DUBAI: Overcharging by taxi drivers and traders, stinking cabs and poor knowledge by unsmiling frontliners have marred Malaysia’s image among Arab tourists.

This feedback from Arab travel agents has left Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor red in the face.

“We need their business. They spend three times more than visitors from other countries,” he said, at the end of an 18-day tour of West Asian countries to promote Visit Malaysia 2007.

“When I get back, I will forward these complaints to the relevant agencies and ministries so that the appropriate action can be taken,” he told Malaysian newsmen.

He lamented that taxi drivers, sometimes, could not answer basic questions, like what the weather was like and queries on exchange rates.

“Sometimes, the taxis even stink!” he said, adding that he also received complaints from tour agencies here that the beaches in Penang and Kota Kinabalu were polluted with rubbish and sewage.

He hoped that the Kota Kinabalu and Penang councils would view this matter seriously and take action to redeem Malaysia’s image in the eyes of these tourists.

“I felt quite ashamed when people told me that they had picked up rubbish on the beach to throw it away ... only to find more and more garbage on the beach,” he said.

Complaints by tour agencies here on such matters were very embarrassing for the country, he said.

Yesterday, Tengku Adnan met representatives of three airlines – Etihad Airways, Emirates Airlines and Qatar Airways – and invited them to increase flights to Malaysia during the summer holiday period.

“Malaysia is one of their top destinations and they are looking to invest in the country.”

It is learnt that Arab tourists – who make up the largest arrivals after those from Asia and Europe – spend an average of seven days in Malaysia. Each family spends about RM1,000 a day during their stay.

Meanwhile, Bernama reported that Malaysia has won an award as this year’s top choice summer holiday destination for United Arab Emirates (UAE) residents.

Tengku Adnan received the award on behalf of the country at the Arabian Travel Market Fair here on Tuesday from renowned tourism magazine Asfaar.

The magazine’s 3,000 UAE residents picked Malaysia as their worldwide favourite because of the reasonable cost and the respect given to Arab and Islamic tradition and culture.

From: The Star May 3, 2007 By: Marc Lourdes