NEVER mind the locals; imagine what the foreigners would think the moment they step into the country through our world-renowned airports.
Being confronted by taxi touts the moment they step out of the arrival lounge is surely an unpleasant experience they never expected to encounter at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA). The problem of touts has always been there but why is it the authorities are unable to deal with it.
I remember the announcements made via the PA system reminding tourists to ignore taxi touts at the arrival lounge, but shouldn't the authorities make sure that there are no taxi touts instead of just informing them to take such taxis?
Most of the victims are first-time visitors to the country who are unfamiliar with the transport system and facilities and therefore become easy targets for the touts, who mislead them into taking their services.
Malaysia Airports Bhd (MAB) chairman Tan Sri Dr Aris Othman, he said although they had received several complaints, the problem was beyond MAB's jurisdiction as it came under the purview of the Transport Ministry and the Entrepreneur and Cooperative Development Ministry.
Frequent travellers find it frustrating when the authorities cannot deal with some basic requirements expected of a world-class destination, and a real hard look at the situation of shortage of taxis at the airport will allow touts to be in business.
And again, if we are serious about attracting tourists and businessmen to Malaysia, we need to improve the taxi service, as it is in a taxi that foreign visitors get their first impression of our country.
It is not difficult to figure out why all the good feelings about our country evaporate the moment the tourists are greeted by touts, and now this scourge is also rampant at the Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT).
For the record, just after five days it began operations on March 25, 2006, the LCCT was already tainted by the presence of taxi touts. Although there are now more than 600 premier and budget taxis operating there, touts are going about luring passengers discreetly.
However, unlike the KLIA main terminal where the queue for taxis is long and many passengers find it frustrating to wait in line, taxis are not a problem at the LCCT – the problem lies with taxi touts.
It is time the authorities work towards revamping the airport taxi service to make it a reliable public transport system for both tourists and local commuters. Sadly, although numerous promises have been made, the problem of touts persist at the airport.
A foreigner once commented that if anyone had nice things to say about Malaysia, it certainly would not include the airport taxi service which is filled with touts. If we are serious about KLIA and LCCT becoming world-class airports then we no choice but to rid the problem of touts comprehensively. Of course this requires strict enforcement and taking stern action against the touts.
When this happens, hopefully our visitors will have a more pleasant experience in Malaysia.