Words by Carolyn Khor
Anthony Wong’s life work and dedication in the hospitality industry spanning four decades has earned him peer recognition as an icon in eco-tourism. He is founder of Asian Overland Services Tours & Travel Sdn Bhd. where2 has nominated him as this issue’s Tourism Personality. Here, Anthony shares his views on his vision as he ‘walks the talk’.
Q1. You are one of 50 travel operators singled out as the model 50 tourism personalities in ASEAN. What are your feelings about this recognition?
A : I am pleased to be recognised in this field as we have always been actively engaged in greening the tourism industry with highlights on sustainability in the tourism sector to business events and ‘Green’ hotel. It is nice to be recognised for the efforts.
Q2. Can you relate how your travel business has grown to the current level to have impacted the industry in general?
A : We have made great strides in making tourism greener and we continue to lead the way today by pushing for sustainable hotels to be built. We encourage the use of constructed wetland to treat waste water and to have zero discharge from hotels and especially in resorts where they have more land. More ecotourism products have been created throughout the years and this has opened the doors for more job opportunities for specialised nature guides.
Q3. In-bound tourism is a big market and Malaysia ranks among the top five with the most number of tourist arrivals in ASEAN. What’s your view of what foreign tourists want to enjoy while in the country?
A : Different markets have different interests so we must cater for all markets. It is continuously changing and we must move with time and market needs. We have so much to do, see and do here like shopping, sight-seeing, appreciating the rich natural environment and medical tourism.
Q4. As a resort operator of the ‘green’ Frangipani Resort, what are your views of why sustainable practices are crucial in determining the future of tourism in Langkawi?
A : For Langkawi, our main product is nature and if we lose our environmental appeal, we do not have much to sell. We must keep Langkawi pristine. We cannot operate business as usual. We cannot let our seas be polluted by channelling waste water into the sea like in Penang, Port Dickson, Malacca, Kuantan and Cherating. Tourists should not swim in polluted waters.
Q5. On a personal level, what would be your parting words to motivate other tourism players to aspire to the level of excellence that you have achieved.
A : We must continue to improve and spend time to do research and development, train staff and be engaged with the academia for capacity building. We should also be involved with our associations and walk the streets to know what is happening. Our business cannot operate on remote control. To be able to survive tough times, we need long term planning. During tough times, we must keep our staff because when the good times return, we can level out as what we have always done.