In 1991, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism organised a train-the-trainer programme under a European Community project with Asean countries, which I attended and started my journey as a part-time tourism trainer.

Until 2000, I was engaged occasionally as lecturer or examiner for tourist guide training and refresher courses. From 1993 to 1994, I was organising chairman of tourist guides courses for the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta), and training were held in Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh and Langkawi.

When Matta School of Tourism was set up in the late 1990s, I was offered to manage it but declined, as I was earning many times more running a car rental company. But between 2006 and 2009, I was the manager and later consultant for the school.

During this period, I conducted in-house training for many tour companies and Express Rail Link, and developed Career and Business Development courses to train travel industry personnel. In recent years, I developed and conducted a Courteous Malaysian Workshop, Driver Enhancement Course, Personal/Professional Development Workshop, Contingency Plans Workshop and Customer Service Excellence.

I have also conducted training for Teksi Wanita and 1,000 Teksi 1Malaysia drivers in Penang, Kuala Lumpur and Johor Bahru for the Land Public Transport Commission. But the training closest to my heart had been the programmes rolled out by the Tourism Ministry, which had undergone name changes thrice (Mocat 1992, Motour 2004 and Motac 2013).

In 1999, I attended a Training-Of-Trainer (TOT) for Malaysia Host organised by Mocat. It was a world-class training programme distributed worldwide by American Express that originated from Canada. The one-day programme was called Canada Host in Canada, Australia Host in Australia and so on.

Later, the programme was localised and renamed Mesra Malaysia. Training was particularly effective as attendees must pass 10 objective test questions and participate actively in class, as half the scores were awarded by the trainer, in order to obtain the attendance certificate.

For Visit Malaysia 2007, the one-day programme was expanded to two days for Mesra Malaysia, and a one-day condensed version called Think Tourism. There was also a two-day Tourism English. In total, 20,000 frontliners from both public and private sectors were trained during this period and I was one of the many trainers.

In 2012, I was in the first batch of trainers for the Travel and Tours Enhancement Course (TTEC), which was made compulsory for management staff in travel and tour companies to attend before they can renew their company licence with Motour. Subsequently, I became a master trainer for TTEC, including the latest TOT held last August.

For Visit Malaysia 2014, I was trained in the pioneer batch of trainers to conduct training for We Are The Host (WATH). The first group that I trained, numbering 168 participants, was held in the ballroom of Hotel Equatorial Melaka in 2013 when the World Tourism Conference was held there.

In October 2016, I attended a three-week course in Langkawi with participants from other Asean countries and became one of the two Asean Master Tourism Trainer for travel agencies in Malaysia. Together, we trained a group of national trainers that included tourism professors and lecturers with PhD in tourism in 2017.

For Visit Malaysia 2020, Motac decided to revive Mesra Malaysia to incorporate more training elements into the programme for frontliners, as WATH was packed with 176 slides and crammed with information, making the course more of a briefing session than training.

The Association of Tourism Training Institute of Malaysia was assigned to develop the new Mesra Malaysia and I assisted in rolling out the programme. Information on local tourism were obtained from the latest Tourism Performance Report by Tourism Malaysia and Domestic Tourism Survey and Tourism Satellite Account by Department of Statistics.

Therefore, Mesra Malaysia incorporates the most relevant and current information on the importance of tourism, plus facts and figures on inbound and domestic tourism. But the main thrust is to empower frontliners from both public and private sectors with better communication skills to raise their level of service and make visitors feel welcomed.

From October 2 to 3, about 50 trainers in the tourism industry, from Langkawi to Sabah, turned up at a hotel in Kuala Lumpur and attended TOT for Mesra Malaysia. I was there as master trainer. These trainers are now certified by Motac to train many tourism frontliners under Mesra Malaysia.

Let us all contribute to the success of Visit Malaysia 2020.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.