AFTER launching the Career and Transportation Education Carnival 2019 at Seremban on Oct 19, Transport Minister Anthony Loke told reporters that a special committee comprising government agencies and ministries had been set up to ensure smoother operations at various entry points into the country.
This is in view of Visit Malaysia 2020, when some 30 million tourists are expected to arrive. This means that on average, 82,000 foreigners would be entering the country every day of the year, and a similar number leaving after their visit.
This number does not include 14 million Malaysians who would be travelling from and returning to the country next year.
On Oct 18, AirAsia Group Berhad chief executive officer Tan Sri Tony Fernandes had expressed disappointment over the congestion at the KLIA2 immigration counter due to insufficient space allocated for the Immigration Department, as priority was given for shops to operate next to it. Sadly, long queues had caused some transit passengers to miss their connecting flights.
From the onset, the design of KLIA2 seems to have placed profits over passenger comfort. Turning the airport terminal into a large mall is fine, as the facilities would be greatly appreciated by shoppers.
However, travellers rushing to catch a flight or get out of the airport upon arrival are forced to walk a long obstacle course, passing by many shops and sometimes through them.
The relief is far from over after clearing immigration, collecting checked-in luggage and passing through customs, as travellers may be hustled by taxi touts waiting for them just outside the gate to the arrival halls.
If the image of our country is of any importance, the airport management body should have stamped out this menace permanently by now. Instead, touts have continued to exploit unsuspecting travellers since the opening of KLIA and KLIA2. What a shame!
The special committee tasked to ensure smoother operations at all checkpoints should examine the entire ecosystem by tracking the movement of tourists and the facilities for them to reach or depart from the airport terminals. At KLIA2, they can only do so inside the Transportation Hub if they are being picked up or dropped off by tour buses.
According to Segi Astana, operator of the KLIA2 shopping mall and Transportation Hub, tour buses are charged RM8 per entry and additional charges for exceeding 15 minutes. E-hailing drivers are charged RM5 per entry with no additional fee.
If this is so, the enclosed hub would be packed with cars, as drivers have better chances of getting bookings through e-hailing apps right at the terminal compared to waiting a kilometre away.
It would then be a challenge for tour buses to drive into the Transportation Hub to drop off travellers aiming to check in to board an aircraft on time or drive out after picking up arriving visitors who are eager to reach their hotels after their flights.
Another matter that warrants urgent attention is travellers who are denied entry into the country because they do not have enough cash with them to sustain their holidays here. While it is true that possession of credit cards is no proof of spending power as the cards may have run out of credit, turning them away is also unfair.
Automated teller machines (ATM) could easily be installed to allow these passengers
to show their credit or debit card balance to immigration officers. Proof should triumph over suspicion, and all bona fide tourists should be welcomed during Visit Malaysia Year and beyond.
C. Y. MING