KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (eTN) – A new government directive has decreed only “genuine” Malaysians can now man the frontline in the country’s hospitality industry.

“We want tourists to meet ‘local’ workers, including those pushing trolleys and taking bags,” said Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak, who made the announcement after chairing a cabinet committee on tourism. “We want our airports to give tourists a truly Malaysian welcome.”

“This is a new ruling for Malaysian airports, especially at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) to ensure services provided will be carried out by locals,” he added. “Only local manpower can be used in jobs involving contact with tourists.”

The ruling has been made to stem the tide of employer’s dependency on “imported” labor, which the government has estimated now numbers some 3 million legal foreign workers.

Najib’s announcement coincided with Malaysia Airport’s unveiling of its new “orange flavored” attire for its airport frontline staff, as part of KLIA’s 10th anniversary campaign.

KLIA has since then attracted 53 carriers, including seven new airlines in 2007, while talks are ongoing with a further five new foreign airlines to fly into Kuala Lumpur during the current year.

KLIA, said Chan Kong Choy, Malaysian transport minister at the campaign’s inauguration, is more than just an airport. “It acts as a catalyst and nucleus for tourism, growth of trade and investments for Malaysia and the region, including providing job opportunities for about 25,000 people in surrounding townships.”

Twice winner of the World’s Best Airport in 2005/2006 (in the 15-25 million passengers category), KLIA is a testament of the world class quality and services offered at the airport, added Chan.

The airport has also been awarded the Green Globe 21 Certification for its best practices of Environmental and Social Sustainability Policy.

KLIA handled 26 million passengers in 2007, including about seven million passengers using its newly built low-cost carrier terminal (LCCT), which is due for expansion as a result of explosion in low cost travel in the region.

Malaysia Airports CEO Bashir Ahmad also announced the airport’s growth plans in the next few years, including development of a recreational theme park, business centers as well as offices on its land bank. “We will be making an announcement on the project proposal within the next three months.”

The steps taken are part of the airport operator’s strategy to increase its commercial revenue to fifty percent by year’s end, including revamping its food and beverage outlets.

“Malaysia Airports enters 2008 with great anticipation and expectations, especially on the prospects to produce better overall performance,” added Bashir. “The year will also be a good year to showcase our strength and credibility.”

Malaysia Airports will host more than 2,000 airport and airline representatives in Kuala Lumpur for the 14th World Route Development Forum (Routes ) in October, 2008.