JOHOR BARU: Like many others who lost their jobs due to the pandemic, tour guide James Yap became a full-time Grab driver when the government banned interstate and international travel during the movement control order (MCO).
Now that domestic travel is permitted again, the 35-year-old decided to promote Johor’s attractions to customers who booked a ride in his car.
Yap, who is of Indian parentage, was raised by his Chinese adoptive parents and speaks fluent Mandarin.
“My background story is usually a conversation starter among curious customers who wonder why I look Indian but have a Chinese surname and can converse well in Mandarin.
“From there, I will get the conversation rolling by talking about Johor’s attractions, such as places to visit, the delicious food and history.
“Surprisingly, many of my customers who are Johoreans, do not even know much about the interesting places in Johor and I saw this as a good opportunity to promote the state, ” he said in a recent interview.
In addition to playing multi-lingual tourism promotional videos in his multi-purpose vehicle, he also placed brochures about interesting attractions for his customers to read.
He said he would usually ask his customers about their preferences, such as nature, history or food, before proceeding to give his recommendations.
Yap, who spent six years as a tour guide before becoming a driver, said he previously organised trips for groups from Singapore, Indonesia and China before the pandemic.
He added that initially, he was disheartened by the economy and travel situation, and had almost wanted to give up being a tour guide entirely.
That was until he picked up a customer who motivated him to stay on this path.
“After sharing with him about my experience and the state’s attractions, the customer was impressed with my knowledge and advised me to keep doing what I love.
“His words truly inspired me to keep promoting Johor this way.
“Although the tourism industry will take years to recover, I am glad that I am able to continue doing my part to promote Johor’s tourism by giving people a reason to visit places they have never heard about, ” he said.