Dollah passionate in his convictions

25 Oct 1998

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Besides, they can enjoy themselves in Indonesia and in Southern Thailand without having to forsake their native tongue and familiar food.

I believe many Malaysian Indians and Pakistanis go to India and Pakistan for the same reasons. Likewise, the Malaysian Chinese who visit China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore, except that I am told Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore are expensive. China, besides being cheap, is the ancestral home.

If you cannot afford, stay at home or become intourist - go to Langkawi, Penang, Pulau Perhentian, Malacca Pangkor and Tioman, or just balik kampung to escape the pressure of living in Kuala Lumpur.

The government says that 1998 is expected to be a "bumper year" for tourism revenue increased from RM10.5 billion last year to RM12.8 billion.

I am happy for Minister of Tourism, Datuk Sabaruddin Chik. I should think the tourist bonanza could not have come at a better time. We should do more to attract foreigners as well as intourists or domestic spenders. I realize Malaysian tourists can never replace foreign tourists. Tourism does contribute quite a chunk to our economy, therefore, a reliable source of visitors from several nations near and far is a godsend.

While we go for the highest class of foreign holidaymakers and ordinary vacationers, we should also make efforts to please and draw the domestic holiday crowds.

I know - after having travelled quite a bit the last 40 years - we have a great tourist potential, however, we ought to improve our marketing, facilities, services, transportaion, cleanliness, honesty and welcome.

Islam, as I have stressed, is a practical, tolerant and moderate religion. The majority of Malays are nice, hospitable, tolerant and moderate, even if I say it. Of course, there are, as in any society, "bad apples" and they are the exception to the rule.

The general attitude of all Malaysians is all important. It is a decisive factor which determines whether tourists return or recommend their friends to Malaysia.

Our country is the crossroad of three major civilizations. Despite the protracted heat and humidity we are fast becoming a tourist destination. I tell you we need not have a cool climate, loose morals, brothels and casinos to woo visitors. We have good beaches and rainforests, but, more importantly, an excellent history of racial and religious harmony - a tolerant people of all faiths.

Lest we forget, drill into our would-be-visitors that they are safe in Malaysia. They need not worry about serious troubles breaking up suddenly because we have no political dateline or peace process to meet.

I look forward to spending my vacation at home next year or in the new millennium.

When my three children were growing up, we would spend our summer holidays in our three homes in Malaysia and on some pulau (islands) and in winter we would go to St Moritz. Those were our favourite holidays. My children took to skiing easily

Top on my wish list for my future holiday is to go sailing around our various islands, Perhentian, in particular, and enjoy their staggering beauty and miles of glorious beaches.

Dato' Abdullah Ahmad is Malaysia's Special Envoy to the United Nations

(This article has been reproduced with the kind permission of Sun )