IF YOU need a guide to take you on your travels throughout Malaysia, I have just the person for you. He can answer all your questions as you go on your discovery tour.
His name is Azizan Noordin. Datuk Azizan Noordin, to be precise. He is the chief executive officer of the Langkawi Development Authority, a post he assumed in December last year.
I caught up with him last week, after the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace exhibition on the legendary island. I met him again a few days ago to listen to his amazing story.
Azizan retired as the deputy director general of Tourism Malaysia in November and assumed his new post less than one month after retirement. I suspect he wouldn’t have minded being told to pack his bags and go to Langkawi immediately. Such is his passion for tourism.
It was difficult not to feel excited as he shared his plans for Langkawi. Being a Kedahan, having been born in Kulim, Azizan has a strong affinity with the island of legends.
His story: “Yes, tourism is in my blood. Many people do not know this but I’m a qualified tourist guide. I’m trained as a tourist guide.
“You see, there’s a provision given to a civil servant to prepare himself for post-retirement when the retirement date gets near. I was asked if there was any course I wished to take so that I can be productive after my retirement.
“I took up a tourist guide course at Karisma Institute, one of the recognised training centres for such a profession. The course was for six months. I enrolled in an ongoing course.
“Some people felt strange that a very senior tourism officer would take such a course. I gave talks in tourism as a resource person. And then I applied to participate on such a course. Some people thought I was going out of my mind.
“But I’ve been a tourism person in my entire career as a civil servant. Enrolling in a tourist guide course was a natural thing to do for me. I didn’t feel odd at all.
“Little did I know then that I was going to be the head of Lada! Even though tourism is in my blood, there’s much to gain from acquiring new knowledge and skills.”
What do they teach tourist guides, I asked him.
“Well, there are quite a number of things to know, apart from the various laws and rules and regulations. We need to know about the etiquette of being a guide, which is very important.
“We also need to know what tourists want and what they are likely to ask. We must be ready to face all situations, good or bad. The exams are divided into three sections: oral, written and simulation.
“I remember my written test. I was the only candidate who asked for additional sheets of paper to write my answers. I have so much information and information is what tourists want.”
Now that he’s the CEO of Lada, Azizan feels that his additional credential as a qualified tourist guide can really come in handy. A tourist guide’s guiding philosophy is simple — be a Jack of all trades and master of all.
What are his plans for Langkawi, then?
The island celebrates 30 years of its duty-free status this year. Azizan started work soon after taking up office with reorganising Lada’s operations.
His plans involve three thrusts — tourism, investment and community.
These three sectors were just units within Lada, but they have since been expanded to become full-fledged divisions.
If Langkawi is to compete seriously with other well-known holiday islands, everyone on the island has to work hard and be prepared to help.
“That is why my plans involve every member of the community.
“For this year, I have scheduled 33 events involving the community directly. Lada and the community must be one.
“I have 35 other events being organised, such as an international fishing competition and a power boat race.
“I also want more engagement with young Malaysians — entrepreneurs, students and youth leaders. These young people, especially those from the Gen Y, are important. I want them to be involved in Langkawi’s development. I’m sure they have plenty of ideas.”
No doubt tourism is the biggest revenue earner for Langkawi. But it’s time for upgrading and upscaling.
“We want to see more world-class establishments and events here,” Azizan said.
Langkawi’s infrastructure may have been adequate to serve the island in the first 30 years. There are demands for more infrastructure, such as a medical specialist centre or a private hospital, an international school and high-end resorts to cater to high-net worth individuals frequenting the island.
Azizan is full of excitement when he talks about Langkawi. After an illustrious career in tourism promotion, this UiTM graduate now finds himself right at the top of an organisation where he can execute his plans and realise his dreams right down to the last detail.
I asked him what would he have done if he had not been picked to head Lada: “I am now a qualified tourist guide. I thought that I would put my new qualification to a test by being a real tourist guide.
“But Allah has other plans. I’m thankful that I get an opportunity to put all my 38 years of experience in tourism to good use here in Langkawi,” he said. All the best, Datuk Tourist Guide.
AHMAD A TALIB is the chairman of Yayasan Salam Malaysia.
Credit : NST