Monday, July 22

Use tourism to move country forward

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MOMENT TO REMEMBER: Abang Johari (seated centre) with Ilyas (seated second right), MAH Sarawak Chapter chairman Keith Pointer (seated second left) and others at the AGM.

KUCHING: Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) has proposed working with schools to stream students for the hospitality industry in line with the Tourism Ministry’s target to pull in 36 million tourists to Malaysia by 2020.

Its president Datuk Mohd Ilyas Zainol Abidin said students who did not excel academically could be streamed for the industry to expose them to career aspects.

He asserted it was time for people to focus on the tourism industry to move Malaysia forward.

“The Ministry of Tourism Malaysia targets 36 million tourist arrivals in 2020. The question is how we plan to cope with the volume. My suggestion is we start streaming students, especially those who did not do well in academics, and notify students of career opportunities.

“It is how we embark on prospects in the hotel industry because tourism is the way forward; not just professionals like doctors and lawyers,” he told the MAH Sarawak Chapter’s annual general meeting at Four Points By Sheraton Kuching here yesterday.

Ilyas said students could build their career by capitalising on the government’s efforts to boost tourism.

Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Abang Openg, who was invited to the meeting, said he noted that some hoteliers offered low remuneration that deter people from entering the industry.

“It is not that people do not want to join the hospitality industry, but the pay can be low. Some operators are not willing to offer a decent pay. You must pay high for quality people, and make it a point to train them to meet the demand.”

Abang Johari, who is Satok assemblyman, believed that Sarawak – given its natural setting and biodiversity – had what it took for the tourism sector.

Most importantly, stakeholders must be able to come up with attractive and innovative products to raise their tourist base, he said.

The state had a lot to offer, but it was up to travel agents to package and market their products.

“For example, crocodiles are not special to you and me in Sarawak but the Japanese do not mind coming here to see them.

“The model in Sarawak is different from that in Peninsular Malaysia in terms of infrastructure and nature, so we must optimise our advantages to attract tourists.”

MAH has 638 members while MAH Sarawak Chapter registers 58.