Tourism should generate goodwill, not otherwisePOSTED BY CBT Team ON 11 August 2014
For the past 39 years, Malaysian and Singaporean tour buses were allowed on Thai roads without restriction, but from the beginning of this month are limited to Songkhla province.
The Thai authorities have also enforced the ruling that a Thai tour guide takes over once the vehicle enters Thailand.
It was reported that the clampdown was in retaliation of the treatment that Thai tour vehicles were subjected to while in Malaysia.
Foreign tour buses are a welcome sight to benefiting parties but could stir up animosity in those who feel deprived of opportunities.
These prickly issues could easily be resolved if Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore agree on several fundamentals.
They should first concur that foreign tour buses are welcome as long as the vehicles meet local technical specifications and do not pick up additional passengers in the host country.
There must be a passenger manifest and itinerary, and insurance cover for the vehicle to meet local requirements.
The role of tour leaders and tour guides should be defined and accepted by all parties.
A tour leader representing the organiser should accompany and assist the passengers throughout the overland trip, and ensure that services are satisfactorily provided by all contracted parties.
During sightseeing tours, only a licensed local tour guide is allowed to provide the running commentaries.
However, the need for such service is diminishing in this information-rich world and the widespread use of social media.
Many tourists would rather search for information available at their fingertips than being bombarded with irrelevant facts and figures over the public address system.
Also, it is only fair for passengers to decide whether to pay for the services of a tour guide, instead of having one imposed on them by law.
If they choose to pay for the service, the best licensed tour guide should be engaged.
The authorities in these three countries should review archaic laws introduced years ago as they were necessary to safeguard local interests then, but is no longer in line with the ASEAN spirit.
As in any bilateral or tripartite agreements, the facilities granted should be reciprocal aimed at efficiency and convenience.
Otherwise, coach charters would lose out to budget air carriers and the passengers flown to other destinations.
Those bent on fighting for their rightful share could cause the market to collapse and all parties would end up as losers.
Tourism is a beautiful industry that thrives on goodwill. There should be no room for protectionism when the world is increasingly borderless and travel seamless.