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Are all parties on the same page in welcoming tourists?

LETTER | After launching the Career and Transportation Education Carnival 2019 at Seremban on Oct 19, Transport Minister Anthony Loke told reporters that a special committee comprising government agencies and ministries had been set up to ensure smoother operations at various entry points into the country.

This is in view of Visit Malaysia 2020 being around the corner when some 30 million tourists are expected to arrive. This means on average, 82,000 foreigners will be entering the country every single day of the year with a similar number leaving after their visit, not counting another 14 million Malaysians that will be leaving and returning to the country next year.

On Oct 18, AirAsia Group Berhad chief executive officer Tony Fernandes had expressed disappointment over congestion at the KLIA2 immigration counter due to insufficient space allocated for the Immigration Department with priority given for shops to operate next to it. Sadly, long queues had caused some transit passengers to miss connecting flights.

From the onset, the design of KLIA2 placed profits over passengers. Turning the airport terminal into a large mall is fine as shopping is the main expenditure of tourists. The shopping facility is greatly appreciated by shoppers but not by passengers rushing to catch a flight or getting out of the airport upon arrival. They are made to walk a long obstacle course, passing by many shops and sometimes through them.

The relief is not over after clearing immigration, collecting checked-in luggage and passing Customs as they may be hustled by taxi touts waiting for them just outside the gate of arrival halls. If the image of our country is of any importance, the airport management should have stamped out this menace permanently but instead, touts have continued to exploit unsuspecting passengers since the opening of KLIA and KLIA2. What a shame.

The special committee tasked to ensure smoother operations at all checkpoints should examine the entire ecosystem by tracking the movement of tourists, including facilities for them to reach or depart from airport terminals. At KLIA2, they can only do so inside the Transportation Hub if they are being picked up or dropped off by tour buses.

According to Segi Astana, operator of the KLIA2 shopping mall and Transportation Hub, tour buses are charged RM8 per entry with additional charges for exceeding 15 minutes. E-hailing cars are charged RM5 per entry with no additional charge. If so, the enclosed hub will be jam-packed with cars as drivers have better chances of getting bookings through e-hailing apps right at the terminal rather than waiting a kilometre away.

It will then be a challenge for tour buses to drive into the Transportation Hub to drop off passengers trying to check in to board an aircraft on time or drive out after picking up arriving passengers eager to reach their hotels to enjoy their stay.

Another matter that warrants urgent attention are arriving passengers that are denied entry into the country because of not having enough cash with them to sustain their holidays. While it is true that possession of credit cards is no proof of spending power as the cards may have run out of credit, turning them away is most unfair and inhumane.

Automated teller machines (ATM) could easily be installed nearby to allow these passengers to show their credit or debit card balance to immigration officers. Proof should triumph over suspicion. All bonafide tourists should be welcomed with or without Visit Malaysia Year.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.