Draw more tourists by having intercity bus tours

If there is one iconic product that can be created to best define touring in Malaysia, it will have to be the “Around Peninsular Malaysia” (APM) tours that I am now proposing.

Imagine a tour bus leaving a selected hotel every morning from a major city and heading towards the next.

These cities or destinations can include Kuala Lumpur, Cameron Highlands, Ipoh, Penang, Kota Bharu, Kuantan, Johor Bahru and Melaka. That would be eight buses travelling in a clockwise direction.

Adding another eight buses running anticlockwise would allow passengers more choices to return to the city of origin after staying for any number of nights.

Another two coaches could traverse between Kuala Lumpur and Kuantan, in opposite directions, daily. This would allow them to stay for one or more nights at each city.

Except for Cameron Highlands, tourists could also choose to fly and begin or end their bus tour from any of these cities. The same buses used for overland transfer in the morning could be used to run afternoon sightseeing tours at the destination, and night tours with dinner and a show.

If the seating capacity for these 18 buses is 40 passengers each, and the load factor is at 60% and bus utilisation 80%, total monthly sales based on seats sold daily would number 10,368.

This alone would be worthwhile for anyone with the capital to invest in 18 new tour buses.

There would be additional income from hotel reservations, on-board merchandising and shopping commissions, which need not be banned if tourists are not taken for a ride.

Such APM tours would draw many tourists to visit and explore Malaysia, particularly free independent tourists, who can plan their own itinerary and schedule and not be stuck with the same tour group.

They would also be popular with Malaysians wishing to see their own country in the company of foreign tourists as they could strike up friendships with visitors.

The success of APM tours would spawn similar bus tours in Sabah and Sarawak – the Pan Borneo Highway offers a great opportunity for tourists to travel an epic journey traversing the island of Borneo.

These tour bus routes could also be used to promote motoring holidays in Malaysia.

It is time we realise that we need to do more than talking or promoting our many attractions in the country.

They are like raw ingredients in food, which cannot be consumed until they are cooked or turned into a great dish by a master chef.

Similarly, individual products do not prompt tourists to act unless they are prepared to make all the travel arrangements themselves.

Great ready-made tour packages such as APM tours form the missing link that can make Malaysia a much greater holiday destination, allowing any tourist to explore the length and breadth of the peninsula in safety and convenience.

With live streaming daily to loved ones at home, even the infirm, aged, retirees or schoolchildren from all over the world can travel safely on their own.

In fact, any enterprising person could kick off such tours with minimal capital. As there is an oversupply of tour buses, it would not be difficult to mop up 18 excess units in the market and build a mobile app with global reach to provide the relevant information and handle reservations.

It would be the one bus tour all local travel agencies and tour companies could sell and earn commissions from, while tourists from all over the world could book direct through the website or mobile app 24/7.

Tourist arrivals to Malaysia have plateaued, with over 25 million visitors annually in five of the last seven years, including last year, while our Asean neighbours registered increases.

A quantum leap is needed for our tours so that tourists return for more or recommend others to visit our country.

YS Chan is an FMT reader.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.