Heightened concern about safety has compelled inbound companies within Malaysia to implement more stringent guidelines to ensure travellers are in good hands
Recent incidences revolving around safety have partially eclipsed what should have been the country’s year to shine through its Visit Malaysia Year 2014 campaign.
First there was the vanishing of Malaysia Airlines’ (MAS) MH370 on March 8. Then Sabah made headlines again for another abduction off its east coast on May 6.
While agencies in developing countries in Asia and South Asia are still searching for reasonable prices, Asian Overland Services Tours and Travel (AOS) director of sales and business development, Andy Muniandy, is seeing a growing trend in safety considerations.
“We have in place travel insurance for all our clients so they are protected from the time they arrive in Malaysia until they depart. The cost of the insurance is built into the package; it is a small amount,” he said.
“Providing travel insurance is still a novelty among groundhandlers in Malaysia, so it gives us an edge and a selling point in wooing new partners and keeping existing tour partners.”
Foo Tze Zhaun, business development manager, Corporate Information Travel, said last year a US-based company had requested during the tender stage for information about his company’s insurance policy, the amount of coverage, as well as that of its suppliers such as hotels and transportation companies. It also wanted a copy of the insurance policies.
“While this is still not normal practice, it may become a growing trend in the future,” said Foo.
Tour operators must also consider more than just travel insurance.
To ensure that critical information gets disseminated to overseas partners in the speediest way possible, Luxury Tours Malaysia recently set up a crisis management team. It also has dedicated staff to provide clients with the latest updates on troubled spots.
Manager, Ganneesh Ramaa, said: “Increasingly, more Asian tour operators overseas want to know whether we have such a team in place before they do business with us because unforeseen occurrences can happen at any time.
“If certain areas are affected by floods or tour programmes have to be delayed because of heavy rains, we want our partners to hear from us first before they get the news from clients via email or instant messaging or social media.”
Transport is another touchy subject.
AOS’ Muniandy explained: “Previously only Middle East and European clients will insist on tour vehicles being less than five years old. The age of our coaches was never a concern among Asian clients. Now, we get increasing queries from clients from India, Indonesia and Indochina who want to know the age of our vehicles.”
Some inbound players have made it a point to exceed the minimum standards of European consumer laws on safety, which require that coach drivers take a 30-minute rest for every four hours of continuous driving and an hour’s rest for every eight hours of continuous driving.
Mayflower Acme Tours deputy general manager for channel management, Abdul Rahman Mohamed, said all the company’s coaches and chauffeur-driven limousines are equipped with devices that can track the speed of the driver in real time and the vehicle’s location.
Abdul Rahman added: “It is also compulsory for all our drivers to undergo defensive driving and take refresher courses every year.
“The high safety standards we practise give us an edge over our competitors to get major MICE and leisure accounts. The expense for this is well spent because it gives our clients peace of mind and confidence to use our services.”
Off the ground, the Malaysian government has called for better aviation safety measures after the disappearance of MH370.
IATA has also convened a task force for global aircraft tracking and passenger data, including participation from ICAO, to prevent a repeat of the tragedy.
Tony Tyler, director general and CEO, IATA, said: “In a world where our every move seems to be tracked, there is disbelief that an aircraft could simply disappear and that the flight data and cockpit voice recorders could be so difficult to recover…We cannot let another aircraft simply vanish.”
The task force will examine all of the options available for tracking commercial aircraft against the parameters of implementation, investment, time and complexity to achieve the desired coverage, with conclusions to be reported by December.
Besides calling on the industry to seriously consider real-time tracking of airlines, Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, MAS group CEO, also wanted weaknesses in aircraft emergency equipment, such as black boxes and locator transmitters, to be rectified.
Additional reporting from Lee Pei Qi, Xinyi Liang-Pholsena, Mimi Hudoyo, Prudence Lui and Rosa Ocampo