I am in Langkawi for a three weeks master trainer programme together with participants from eight ASEAN countries. The venue is in a well-known resort hotel at Pantai Tengah.
There are many spas and restaurants along Jalan Teluk Baru at Pantai Tengah, but traffic is light and these outlets are usually devoid of customers.
Many buildings have been deserted and left dilapidated. Adding to the gloom and doom are half-completed structures, and projects that were halted or abandoned.
Further up north is Jalan Pantai Cenang, which is bustling with people and traffic. Shops line both sides of this road, stretching for over a kilometer.
But walking along this stretch is hazardous, as sidewalks that were previously dug up were left unpaved.
Also, there was no urgency to complete many roadside repair works, forcing tourists to walk on the road and exposing themselves to danger.
Fallen cables from overhead poles were left dangling dangerously on the sidewalk over many days. It could not be ascertained whether they are live wires or not.
All these made Jalan Pantai Cenang sandy, dusty, untidy and dangerous, with puddles of water after rain. It is more like an obstacle course than a tourist-friendly belt.
At Cenang Mall, RM1 is charged for using the toilet. The appointed maintenance contractor displays a notice and touted the fee as a bargain, as patrons are given a packet of tissue worth 50 sen.
A lady tourist entering the toilet was intercepted and she stormed off after being told to pay RM1. That unpleasant encounter will be embedded in her memory of Langkawi.
I could not check with the information counter or management office as there is none in the mall, according to a promoter manning one of the sales kiosks.
Although the logos of many well-known brand names were displayed prominently at the road frontage, I decided not to check out the mall.
On Thursday night, the Malaysian participants of the training programme played host to three Vietnamese counterparts and introduced them to Malay food.
After dinner, all three ladies had their hands decorated with Henna Tattoo by a Malay woman operating her service by the roadside from 8.00pm to midnight daily.
I noticed her bunting banner with the words “Can stand for 1 week” and advised her to replace the word ‘stand’ with ‘last”.
The Vietnamese ladies were thrilled to bits with their temporary tattoos. They took many photographs and selfies to share over social media, spreading their joyful experience in Langkawi far and wide.
When I checked in at the hotel several days ago, I was fortunate to have met Wani the receptionist and Nurul the duty manager. These two ladies are assets to any organisation and great ambassadors for tourism in Langkawi.
In contrast, the tap water that came out from my hotel room must be from a badly rusted water tank, as I could smell rust while showering and taste it when drinking the boiled water.
After I had consumed one third of a large bottled water, I replenish it with some boiled water. To my horror a few hours later, the rusts could clearly be seen at the bottom.
Near the resort is a Malay lady operating a licensed tour company specialising in local tours but faced stiff competition from unlicensed operators.
She used to operate 20 licensed vehicles for rental but surrendered all the permits to the Land Public Transport Commission when illegal car rental operators continued to enjoy a free rein on the island.
Her company is a member of a travel association, which all licensed travel, tour or car rental companies must join, is in disarray and she has little confidence that the local tourism industry can change for the better.
If my little experience represents a cross section of tourism in Langkawi, then the island needs to get its act together, starting with the top.
Whatever Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) used to boast about tourism in Langkawi can be thrown out of the window if basic fundamentals, such as the ones I have encountered, are not acted upon by the local town council and tourism authorities.
Source : Y S Chan@The Heat Malaysia Online