By Fathol Zaman Bukhari
A closer inspection of the place reveals some very interesting facts. It is a sad reflection of the working culture of those responsible for the centre.
The Perak Tourist Information Centre (Pusat Pelancongan Perak) near Ipoh Padang was the focus of attention recently, all for the wrong reasons. Long the bane of tourists to Ipoh and Perak, the centre’s name is the riason d’etre for the many hiccups it has caused, imagined or otherwise. Mariam Mokthar’s piece in Ipoh Echo (Issue 129) had caused many raised eyebrows within the state government circle. In her many critical appraisals of Visit Perak Year (VPY) 2012, Mariam has often referred to it as “the Perak Tourism Office”. This does not bode well with those responsible for tourism in the state, especially Perak Tourism Management Berhad.
This misnomer is seldom explained thus the people responsible for its upkeep get away scot-free. Although named the Perak Tourism Information Centre, it is not an appendage of the state government but rather an extension of the Ipoh City Council’s tourism department. The centre, incidentally, comes under the ambit of the Community Development Division. The insignificance of its placement could be the reason why no one takes notice of its presence. In spite of adverse publicity, the Mayor did little to upgrade this valuable asset to the chagrin of visitors.
A major complaint is the absence of capable staff knowledgeable enough on Perak and its surroundings. Suggestions by well-wishers, keen on making it an information centre of substance, fell on deaf ears. The Perak Tourism Association has offered to train the staff and provide volunteers, with more than a fleeting knowledge of the touristic spots in place, to manage the office. The council’s reluctance to embrace changes is puzzling considering that Ipoh is the entry point of visitors to Perak and VPY 2012 is just around the corner.
A closer inspection of the place reveals some very interesting facts. It is a sad reflection of the working culture of those responsible for the centre. Because of their educational background the staff are incapable of holding a decent conversation in English, let alone to comprehend. Imagine a harried foreigner having to put up with this inadequacy. At a similar centre in Canungra, Queensland recently, I was given more than enough assistance when I stopped to ask my way in this picturesque Aussie township.
Achieving a desirable standard is not impossible provided the head honcho takes an interest. If the mayor pays lip service, in order to placate his critics, then we are in for trouble. What more with a state executive councillor on a do-or-die mission to draw tourists to the state for VPY 2012.
On an average the centre receives between three to five visitors daily. The number is greater during holidays and weekends. Most would ask for directions and places to visit in the city and the state. The available brochures help but the dearth of maps and sketches puts visitors at a distinct disadvantage.
A very informative booklet entitled “The Best Place in Ipoh” listing such trivia as heritage trail, places of worships, recreational parks, entertainment and food outlets etc is in short supply. Cost is the obvious factor for its scarcity. The glossy booklet is expensive to produce, thus the limited number available for distribution.
Making reservations, booking rooms and a multitude of other requests are being entertained by the counter staff. However, there are times when enquiries have to be directed to the parties concerned because the staff knows little or nothing about the places in question. This awkward situation can be avoided if some form of training is given to the minders beforehand.
The ultimate guffaw is the description of the Ipoh Tree, emblazoned at the base of the tree’s photographic image on display at the centre. It starts with, “The words ‘Ipoh’ makes us memorize to Ipoh Tree”. It rambles on nonchalantly, “This tree is grouping under “nettle” species and can growth up until hundred feet’s tall”. And concludes by declaring unabashedly, “Now days Ipoh Tree can be founded at Railway Station and D.R. Seenivasagam Park”. The genius behind this “masterpiece” has decidedly debased the English Language.
Efforts are underway to rename the Perak Tourist Information Centre the “Ipoh Tourist Information Centre”. A dedicated centre for visitors to the state will be established at the railway station and will be managed by the Perak Tourist Guides’ Association. Whether this will ever happen is anybody’s guess.
As for the mayor, he has to give tourism a deserving break. Indifference is not an option.