As a continuation to my last blog post HERE and a reference to my comments in The Malay Mail about Malaysian taxi drivers HERE, I’d like to add that the Malaysian Tourism Promotion Board can spend time, money and manpower to promote the country all over the world indefinitely, but so much of that will be in vain if the public transport operators back home keep on spoiling things for the tourism industry and the country itself.
First-time visitors who are impressed and convinced will come and thanks to the many problems they experience with the taxi service, many might never return. Worse, they will tell their countrymen – all made easier, in real-time and far-reaching via social media – about their bitter experiences with that particular part of Malaysia’s public transportation.
The recent report by LondonCabs.co.uk portal which placed Malaysian taxi drivers at the top of the list of ‘10 Countries with the Worst Taxi Drivers in the World’ obviously affects (and will continue to do so, I’m afraid) so many potential vacationers’ decisions on visiting Malaysia and those nine other countries. It has been published in the print media, talked about on television and radio and is there online, forever. Anyone who can get connected to the Internet – including astronauts in outer space! – will be able to read about it. That’s how bad it is, and we will never know how many potential visitors we’ve lost and continue to lose.
Whether or not LondonCabs.co.uk was being systematic and accurate – what were the datum and parameters of its study, the methodology used and so on – in arriving at its decision to rank Malaysian taxi drivers as the the worst in the world is academic, by now. The damage has been done. All we can do now is find ways to fix the problem. Yes, we do have a problem with our city taxi service. This is not news anymore. I am very sure that our taxi drivers are not the ‘worst in the world’ but still, I dare say that they are quite bad – or worse in some areas if compared to the taxi drivers in some of Malaysia’s neighbouring countries.
The two components in any business or industry (which includes the tourism industry too) are the customers/clients/users and the business operators, with the activities or transactions centering around the products and/or services by the operator. To have good business in which any operator hopes to lead to a successful one, expectations must be met. That’s what it is all about – Meeting Expectations. The customers have their set of expectations and so do the business operators themselves. The former want their expectations to be met at all times and the business operator must reciprocate by meeting their expectations, and vice versa. All have to run concurrently.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that as long as those expectations are within reason. After all, we are talking about the customer’s hard-earned money here and in the case of tourists in Malaysia, we must make their vacation here worth every single dollar they have saved, spent and will continue to spend. I really don’t have to say it here but if we are too dense to know why we should take very good care of them (i.e. meeting their expectations) here, it’s because they may want to come to Malaysia again… as well as recommend their friends, colleagues, neighbours and relatives to come to Malaysia for their vacations, because they had a blast here!
If they were not rude, destructive and creating problems during their time here, would we not want to see them again? I am sure the hotel & restaurant operators, tourist guide, those taxi, van, tour bus operators, boat and jetski rental operators, souvenir shops and so many other local businesses would love to repeat their services and sell more of their products and services to them again!
Back to the country’s taxi service, we can keep on pleading and begging to the country’s taxi industry (the drivers and the companies they represent) to ‘think of the country’s image and tourism industry as a whole’ and change their mindset, but let’s not kid ourselves here. The taxi industry itself can now see that everything that is bad and non-existent about it has invited menacing and innovative rivals like Uber and GrabCar. As long as the taxi industry continues its embarrassing and damaging ways, Uberification in the public ‘transportscape’ is inevitable – we can all be sure that there will be other services similar to Uber and GrabCar coming!
As an official of the country’s tourism authority, I cannot and will not support the likes of Uber which is not operating according to the country’s laws – its drivers not applying for Public Service Vehicle Services licences, not paying annual insurance for taxi, their vehicles not subjected to inspections by Puspakom and they don’t use fare meters, among others. But at the same time, I honestly can’t blame all those frustrated commuters and tourists who use the (legal) taxi service and go through all the well-know problems that come with it – that is, if they can actually get a taxi first!
From what I’ve read, Uber co-founder and CEO himself was once a frustrated tourist in Paris, France and that experience was said to have been his inspiration to create the service! Until the local taxi industry improves its quality of service, which includes their drivers’ appearance, attitude and taxi conditions, I honestly don’t see services like Uber and GrabCar ‘going away’. After all, many people love it! It’s all about demand and supply.
Barring a mighty political will by the Government to swiftly (and permanently) quash the problems in the taxi serice, we continue to scold, blame, punish, penalise and hurl accusations to the taxi industry while it snaps back and counter-argues, HERE. But until then, the taxi industry too must find within itself ways to change for the better or else I’m afraid we will continue to live with this same pathetic problem forever while the industry itself and the country suffer incalculable damage, locally and internationally.
* My best wishes to the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) in carrying out its duties to improve the country’s public transport service, taxis included. On behalf of Tourism Malaysia, I welcome its new Centralised Taxi Service System (CTSS) and hope that it will evolve to include all taxis in the country. We’ll see how it goes…