Visit Perak Year (VPY) 2012 is now in its third month of operation and in nine months it will come to a close. Whether this year-long endeavour to increase tourist arrivals in Perak meets its defined targets is open to debate. Given the fluidity of activities organised to complement the event, it may be a little premature to appraise Tourism Perak’s performance at this juncture. A correct judgment will not be forthcoming unless factors such as timing, preparedness and mood are taken into account. These factors inhibit VPY 2012 and will make or break the resolve of those responsible.
It was with this aim in mind that prompted Fathil Ghani, the hard-pressed Chief Executive Officer of Tourism Perak, to call for a meeting with media chiefs recently. The significance of the dialogue, held in a purpose-built limestone cave at Sunway’s Lost World of Tambun, was not lost in transition. The ambiance surrounding the seemingly claustrophobic cave was most conducive, as it encouraged the attendees to speak their minds out, literally.
The reorganised Tourism Perak Management Berhad (TPMB), with Fathil at the helm, became operational only in mid-August 2011. For reasons of expedience, TPMB was placed under the control of the State Secretary and is responsible directly to the Executive Councillor of Tourism for the implementation of tourism-related activities/policies in Perak. Two other agencies are similarly responsible for tourism in the state. They are Tourism Malaysia (Perak) and Ministry of Tourism Perak Branch. In the heydays there was the state tourism council which presided over all three agencies. Over and above this, and acting on a more partisan platform, is the Perak Tourism Association, a non-governmental organisation that acts as a conduit between the government and the tourism sector.
The presence of these bodies did little to overcome the public’s misconception of tourism management in the state. Many are still unclear of the roles and responsibilities of each agency. After having interacted with Fathil for the last eight months I am a little better than the average Perakean. Tourism Perak is the agency that calls the shots insofar as touristic activities in Perak are concerned. The other agencies are only in support. It is at the beck and call of the Executive Councillor of Tourism, Dato’ Hamidah Osman. That explains why Fathil is in the thick of the action. Wherever Hamidah is, Fathil is there. Previous heads were not as conspicuous. The reason is simple – they could not fit in.
The meeting at the Tambun theme park’s Kapura Cave saw some exciting exchanges which would have been summarily dismissed had it been held at a more formal location. Questions on VPY 2012’s visibility and on tourist arrivals were raised. Fathil provided the answers and though they were not to our expectation, at least we all agreed to disagree.
A number of billboards extolling the virtues of VPY 2012 have been erected and placed along highways and byways. But the number is too few and far between to make an impact. “This is the reason why there is very little aura in Ipoh and in the state,” said Jalal, the Berita Harian chief. Awareness creation is essential, he reasoned as people need to be constantly reminded of the auspicious occasion.
“To date 70 tourist-related activities have been organised and more are in the pipeline,” said Fathil. Activities at district and council levels are also being planned. The success of these programmes is dependent upon the creativity and determination of the district and council heads. “They have been forewarned not by Hamidah alone but by the MB himself,” Fathil intimated.
If anything, the two-hour meeting revealed some interesting facts about VPY 2012. Foremost, it is planned with some finesse but implementation is being hampered by jitteriness and indecision. Subsequently, the full potential of Tourism Perak is not yet realised.
These are teething problems, which must be overcome if VPY 2012 is to see the light of day. That was the consensus of those at the meeting.