An Inappropriate Misnomer

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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.

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9 thoughts on “An Inappropriate Misnomer

  1. i think perak needs more promotion for both target grps..locals n foreigners.
    n mbi shoud find some1 who is fluent in English, like u all…rite?!
    pls help mbi on ths matter. tq so much !

  2. Welcome to Perak, the silver lining state and the land of the grace. I normally have my toast roti and chicken curry at the Old Town White Coffee next to the center every Saturday or Sunday after a good simple jog and stretch around Ipoh Padang. The center looks nice, never been inside.

    If I want info on Perak tourism, I rather google it. Instead of having nice big center, why not have small tourist kiosks with maps and brochures at the train station, airport and Medan Gopeng bus station. That would probably make sense and cheaper to manage as well. 5-10 people a day, if the numbers constantly at the Tourist Info Center, that makes less than 300 tourist a month?

    Considering the PLUS highway, ever notice we only have 1 exit at Ipoh Selatan toll, if a bus of tourist missed the exit, you have to make a u-turn at Kuala Kangsar! Lets consider the route to Penang, ever notice that we have less street lights after Taiping all the way to Juru? I would consider drive straight to Penang if I arrive late night, its more vibrant and colorful. Especially the Autocity, have you count how many nice restaurants around there? Ohh wait, Perak have Nasi Ganja, and the location is nightmare to locate at night.

    Of all the signboards, none about Royal Belum except EMkay’s billboard near Bukit Beruntung about our 130million years of rainforest. Plus the Airport (next to Jusco) restaurant’s billboard after Tanjung Malim. The rest I only see more and more Zhulian’s signboards.

    Well, its good Ipoh is a dead town, more time to spend with kids and less hustle. Getting everywhere is less than 15 minutes. Try driving on Sunday early morning in Ipoh, it feels like driving in Perlis. 🙂

  3. What an utter disbelief! Imagine all the foreign tourists reading this, I shudder to think what their impression of Ipoh will be. Such distasteful humiliation should be taken down at once as it is an embarrassment to all of us Ipohians. And considering that the Tourist Information Center is usually the fist stop for most foreign tourist, coupled with the reported useless officers manning the center, there goes our tourism industry down the drain. Come on, VPY 2012 is around the corner!

  4. The ‘English’ used in IPOH TREE is simply disgusting.
    Worse, facts are wrongly given.
    The scientific name of the tree is wrongly spelt.
    The book is by McNair and it was published in 1878, not 1979.

  5. After reading Mariam’s article, I paid a visit two weeks ago with a group of friends from Sarawak and Johor. They asked a few questions about Ipoh which the staff were not able to answer. I had to tell them we were visiting this place to confirm its status as a tourism joke! Come on MBI, buck up!!

  6. Well that’s what happens when it is not on merit but on who you know. Pls have people who not only can speak a few langauges but also have a passion for the industry.

  7. “…Surely MBI could find someone who is fluent in English….” Truly a shameful effort! Could it be that many saw this and just did not bother to inform the Tourism Office to make the correction.

    It is however no excuse for having this displayed without having it proof read. Really is the standard of the English language really so bad nowadays ? or is it the “accepted” norm by the authorities to ignore good practice ? Thought these fellows had already achieved ISO status ? No mind, no doubt “someone” would have informed them.

  8. I agree with Steven Lee that the notice should be removed immediately and burnt. I am sure that the Dato Bandar would have seen thia notice during his visits and rounds, and not taking any action is something to think about. Probably the Dato Bandar feels the English is correct and left it at that or he would taken action by informing his staff, to rectify the wordings and probably the staff themselves are poor in English and feel that if a message is understood by the people, it is good enough. It is a disgrace !

  9. For everyone’s sake, take down that sign immediately. It can be seen clearly that the sentences were originally in Malay and translated into English. Even if the translator had used Google’s online translation, the sentences would not be as bad. Surely MBI could find someone who is fluent in English to help.

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