TOURISM Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen said in February that about 4,000 taxi drivers will be appointed as tourism taxi ambassadors, considering the fact they are the frontiers in the tourism industry.
Among the criteria for the drivers to be selected are that they must be clean, possess basic communication skills, and not smoke while driving.
I am not too sure what is the progress of this project and I do hope it is not a public relations exercise just to raise the image of the industry which has been plagued with complaints from not only tourists, but also locals, almost on a daily basis.
There are drivers who overcharge their customers. It seems to be part of their work culture.
I have yet to be convinced that these drivers are fit enough to become the ambassadors.
It will be a laughing stock if the right crown is placed on the wrong head.
Overcharging customers is a major complaint. Rude taxi drivers is another.
From my experience, there were taxi drivers who charged higher than the meter fare; there were those who refused to return the change; and the smarter ones will bring the passengers, especially foreigners, for a tour around the "globe" first before dropping them at their destination as a longer route means higher fare.
I consider passengers who were overcharged but taken to their destination without the merry-go-round relatively lucky.
For those who were also overcharged but given a "world tour" before the taxi drivers dropped them at some unknown places, you have my sympathies.
Three Taiwanese had a bad experience the moment they landed at the southern gateway recently and I was privileged enough to witness the drama and photograph the scenes.
From what I learnt from the Taiwanese, they took a cab from the Johor Baru City Square to get to the Kotaraya 2 terminal which is not more than one kilometre away.
I did not really use a ruler to measure but I have lived long enough in the city to be able to estimate the distance.
According to them, they were driven to some unknown place and was dropped off at Jalan Trus near the Persada Convention Centre.
As they enquired whether it was Kotaraya 2, the taxi driver told them he did not know where is the place and asked them to ask people around.
After asking for direction, it was the Taiwanese who showed the "tourism taxi ambassador" the way to Kotaraya 2.
Kotaraya 2 is a landmark, but the taxi driver chose to ignore its existence for reasons best known to him.
But the drama unfolded when the driver dropped the trio at Kotaraya 2.
The meter fare was RM8, but the driver charged them RM10.
Being given the run-round had already triggered the wrath of the tourists, and the overcharging had raised their adrenaline levels.
An argument ensued, which ended in the taxi driver slapping one of the Taiwanese, and uttering some foul language in Mandarin before driving away.
I was doing some photography at Kotaraya 2 and witnessed the whole incident, which was only 20 metres away from me.
Promising I will email them the evidence, I am sure they would like to share their experience of "hospitality" when they go back to their homeland.
They chose not to lodge a police report as they are not sure if the next taxi driver fetching them to the police station will have the same way as the first, or even worse.
Surprisingly, Kotaraya 2 as a city terminal does not have a tourist police centre or a police beat base.
As far as security is concerned, the tourists and travellers are on their own.
Tourism is a service industry and a major revenue earner for Johor.
If the bad apples are not removed, and if the victims tweet or share their experience on Facebook or any social media platform, it is enough to ruin the whole industry.