Perak’s Best Kept Secret: Visit Perak Year 2012

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By Mariam Mokhtar

Visit Perak Year (VPY) 2012 must be Perak’s best kept secret. Why? When I paid a visit to the Perak Tourism Office beside the Ipoh Padang, the staff there were unaware it was VPY 2012; If they did, they kept it well under wraps.

Perak Tourism Information Centre

Despite dropping several hints about a group of foreigners who were planning to tour as much of Perak as possible the following year, the two employees at the front counter, could not suggest any places of interest and did not breathe a word of VPY 2012 to me.

Front-Liners No Clue

Perak State tourism chairman, Hamidah Othman told the Ipoh Echo, last July, that “locals must think Tourism and do Tourism.”

She stressed, “Visit Perak Year 2012 will involve the whole state. We need to create awareness throughout the state and have the local residents as well as local councils to participate.”

It appears that either she or her assistant has forgotten to inform those at the front-line of the Perak Tourism Office, of VPY 2012.

Two years ago, I sought information at the same tourist office. I then wrote an article titled “Is Perak serious about promoting tourism?” in issue 80 of the IE.

Back then, it was a disappointment to see shabby, dusty exhibits and staff, who despite being friendly, appeared clueless about the attractions they should have been promoting.

Service Worsened

Fast forward to 2011, and service has definitely worsened. Around 3.00 p.m. on Wednesday September 7, two men were manning the front counter of the tourist office. In a room, at the far end of a corridor, another man sat tapping on his computer.

Whilst one of the counter staff served an elderly Australian who had just walked in, the other was happily playing games on his computer. His monitor was visible to us and although he spotted us waiting, he made no attempt to attend to us.

After several minutes, the man at the end of the corridor, approached us, but instead of coming to our aid, or instructing the employee who was engrossed with his game, left the building.

Non-Existent Customer Service

Customer service at the tourism office is non-existent. We asked the counter staff, if the person at his desk was on lunch break and to help us if he wasn’t. He just looked at his seated colleague and said “no, he’s not on break”. He was clearly embarrassed because his colleague had heard our remarks but made no attempt to serve us and continued playing.

We asked for leaflets to the Mangrove Reserve near Taiping, before he continued serving the Australian visitor. We again enquired if his colleague was busy because we wanted information. This time, the Malay man got up, albeit reluctantly and said in ‘Bahasa’ to his colleague, “Yang ini, banyak sangat soalan” (This one, (asks) too many questions).

Perhaps, he had overheard me tell his colleague in English, that I was planning to bring some Europeans over the following year and he imagined I was also a foreigner and could not understand Malay.  Perhaps, he was being deliberately rude.

Failed Before It Started

If this is how Perak Tourism employees respond to genuine local and foreign tourists, then VPY 2012 has failed before it started.

The command of spoken English of both employees was poor. The Malay man kept referring to his Indian colleague for confirmation, not just of the ‘Bahasa’ to English translation, but also of the answers to my questions about the places of interest.

Neither inspired confidence and both were hesitant when answering the questions that one would expect most tourists to ask, like directions to places and other attractions in the locale.

Visit Ipoh? Never Again

As we left the tourist office, I asked the Australian, who was waiting for a taxi, for his first impression of the tourism office.

He said, “It’s a dump. The staff are useless. I could not understand them and they did not know anything.”

I asked, “Did they tell you about VPY in 2012. Would you visit Ipoh again?”

His reply: “You must be joking. I’ve stayed in smaller towns in South East Asia where the people do not speak any English but they were more helpful and more accommodating. Visit Ipoh? Never again.”

Interestingly, last August, Ipoh Mayor Roshidi Hashim said he was preparing for VPY 2012 and had recently returned from a visit to Xiamen, Fujian and Shenyang China as part of a Ministry of Tourism’s “Sales Mission to China” delegation led by Tourism Minister Ng Yen Yen.

Roshidi wanted to promote Ipoh food as part of Tourism Malaysia’s “Fabulous Food 1Malaysia” programme. He also announced that the Ipoh City Council had allocated RM4 million to upgrade its tourism related facilities; with most of it specifically for the heritage trail of Ipoh Old Town.

Perakians are weary of civil servants and politicians going for a jolly abroad, ostensibly to promote local tourism or for study trips, at the taxpayers’ expense. Moreover, tourism is not just about the heritage trail in Ipoh or food only.

Tourism Office First Port of Call

Many tourists make the tourism office their first port of call. It is important that the Perak tourism office staff are friendly, helpful and can offer advice on Ipoh and beyond.

If they appear disinterested, how can they promote Perak successfully? If they lack motivation, then their leaders are to be blamed.

My second experience at the Perak tourism office has been disappointing. Lessons have not been learnt.

8 thoughts on “Perak’s Best Kept Secret: Visit Perak Year 2012

  1. Best kept secret in Ipoh ? Head off to Ipoh airport for a joyride over scenic Ipoh . Pls contact Cpt Nahri on 019-3126065 who will skillfully pilot you and two other friends in the comfort of a 4 seater low wing Piper Warrior ii. Just tell him Terrence Chaw refers u to him with this once in a life time must do in Ipoh .remember to bring a camera /camvideo to capture that special moment.great for birthday gift or that special occasion. Maybe even head off to nearby Pangkor island for a retreat you deserve . Take the challenge .the skies is waiting !

  2. Most importantly, the counter STAFF MUST UNDERSTAND AND ABLE TO SPEAK ENGLISH.If they’ve have at least, completed form five level and sat for their SPM, The eleven years of schooling and learning English should be able to give them a good command of English. Next is the attitude to RESPECT every customers, local or foreigners. Must have politeness, courtesy and patience to be able to answers inquiries with confident and look at the enquirers eyes. I know how these girls mumble mumbo-jumbo, poke at their friends for help, answer in a sheepish voice and if we asked too much, they become rude and their friends will join in cursing us. As though we are giving them extra work to think. I am sure there are many fluent-speaking Indian and chinese young Malaysians who are very responsible in their duty commitment and can make Perak proud. Behaving like sweet-young-things is not the main reason they’re there. Don’t bring the kampong image to town and to your work place.Be professional.

  3. Mariam, it is going to take a long time for people manning the public counters to wake up and be more rsponsible to the public. It all boils down to attitude.

  4. This is my second time commenting about VPY 2012 on Ipoh Echo. I don’t think the Perak State Tourism Chairman even bother reading any of these. No wait, I don’t think ANY of the local council and powere-that-be bothers to read anything from the locals. They are too busy planning for ‘study trips’. Such a waste of tax payers money. Sad to say, even I myself, a Perakian, would have to agree with the Australian tourist. I’ve been to smaller towns in other countries, and believe me, they know their local attractions and its history like the back of their hands. They may lack resourcer but they definitely compensate it with their enthusiasm. Can’t say the same about our own here though. Appalling!

  5. Hi Mariam, thanks so much for bringing this to our attention. I too find the official tourism in Perak rather bleak and upsetting. The staff do not seem to be trained or enthusiasted about their job at all. I’ve been to many of the offices just for a quick look see in the past few years and truth be told, the staff really gave the impression that they were there just for the sake of having a job and getting their ‘hard earned’ salaries.

    I was lucky enough to be exposed to the great wonders of Perak, that when it came to bringing foreign friends around was a breeze. But on the days that they ventured out to explore Perak by themselves, they really couldn’t get much help or information from these official places. They were better off wandering around and striking up conversations with locals instead.

  6. PTA, MATTA PERAK CHAPTER, PERAK TOURISM, WHAT HAS HAPPEN. HOW COME SUCH A REPORT COME OUT ARE YOU ALL SITTING OR WARMING YOUR SEATS & DOING NOTHING. MBI, YOUR COUNTER GIRLS ARE THERE TO ENSURE THE TOURISTS ONLY SIGNED FOR THE BROCHURES TAKEN AND HAVE NO KNOWLEDGE & INFORMATION ON PERAK WAKE UP LAH START TO HIRE PENSIONERS WHO CAN SPEAK PROPER ENGLISH & HAVE KNOWLEDGE ON PERAK.

  7. It is bewildering that VPY 2012 could be attempted at all. It seems nothing is in place to open Perak to visitors, let alone for visitors, foreign or domestic, to return and savour a cherished memory of a great place.

    The total concept of tourism is misunderstood. Ipoh tourist office at Jalan Tun Sambanthan has been carrying on uselessly. What happens in other places out of Ipoh and Taiping? Where would tourists go for help? The police stations?

    Recently, I stopped at the ‘Rest Area’ at Tasik Laban on my return from Lenggong. The place has great potential for its views, the landscape and the breeze. But the only facility operating in this ‘expensive’ development is the toilets, and yet we have to pay 30sen to use the broken and dirty toilets. The main building complex is an abandoned white elephant. Alarmingly, Lenggong may soon be on world map as UNESCO World Archaeological Site.

    Thanks, Mariam, for the wake up call. But I wish the government and the local authoritives hear you and strategise their action plan and implement it swiftly and efficiently. Otherwise, we will be wasting a lot of money to make ill the reputation of Perak as a tourism haven.

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