(THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysians are quite averse to doing "their business" in public toilets in the country. We do not have to tell you why.
Of course there are the exceptions and thankfully with the proliferation of malls and stricter health and safety regulations, we have enough options for loos in the bigger cities. Of course we are envious of Malaysians who have travelled overseas and come back to regale us with the many wonderful toilets they have encountered overseas.
As Carolyn Childs and Bronwyn White, co-founders of MyTravelResearch.com, have found - great toilets in tourism destinations become talking points, encourage repeat visits and can be a positive indicator of how the host community respects tourists.
The duo organised the inaugural 2017 International Toilet Tourism Awards to show the clear link between toilets and tourism success. There were 30 entries - including a place where you can "do the business" overlooking a creek with crocodiles and an art studio where guests pull up chairs to admire the toilet doors.
Here are the winners for six categories:
1. Best Economic Contributor: The Loos at the Southern Highlands Welcome Centre (SHWC) (The former Mittagong Visitor Information Centre), Main Street, Mittagong, New South Wales, Australia.
The refurbishment of their toilets during the late 2005s had achieved a customer satisfaction rating of 93 per cent as they include flowers, posters, audio reel, stickers of quirky facts and even free Wi-Fi. No wonder occupants are reluctant to leave the toilet. And the loos and the centre have achieved a customer satisfaction rating of 93 per cent.
Judge's comment: Despite a very small decorating budget for the toilets, the SHWC has been wonderfully innovative with their colourful, fun and informative loos concept. And this shows in the direct and indirect economic returns when visitors stop to spend a penny and then see what's available locally.
2. Best Location: Cliffhanger Loo with a view, overlooking the sea, Cobourg Peninsula, Garig Gunak Barlu National Park, Northern Territories, Australia
The loo is on a cliff overlooking the pristine beach and waters of the Cobourg Marine Park. In the privacy of the toilet, the occupant can marvel at the lagoon water 10m below, where crocodiles bask on the sand and reef sharks hunt for prey. The WC is waterless, odourless and converts fresh waste into organic humus.
Judge's comment: Cheeky, audacious, simple and environmentally sound, the cliffhanger loo has capitalised on its location perfectly and has become an attraction in itself.
3. Best Design (Joint Winner): The Kathleen Buzzacott Art Studio, Alice Springs, Australia
Built in 2016, the loos were added for the convenience of tourists visiting Kathleen's studio. Her husband, who painted the loos, is a traditional owner of the land. The beautiful toilets complement the stunning landscape and highlight the connection to native heritage and culture through the storytelling toilet doors, which feature indigenous central desert dot paintings.
Judge's comment: Unpretentious, simple and elegant. The design of these toilets perfectly complements the existing artist studio. A harmonious balance of architectural design and artistic creativity has produced this visually spectacular work of art. The building is an extension of the artist's creative space. People pull up chairs to sit and admire the toilet doors, which tell their own Aboriginal stories.
4. Best Design (Joint Winner): Hahei Holiday Resort, Coromandel, New Zealand
The new toilet and shower block here is part of a glamping backpacker lodge designed to personify eco beachfront coast chic using as much reused and carbon friendly products as possible. The conveniences have light opaque roofing for natural light, open trusses and external gable ventilation, with plenty of recycled native timber featured, including LED lights in old beer bottles and ceramic sinks from a hospital.
Judge's comment: The beautiful approach to the toilet and shower block and the light and airy design using local products has made the loos an exemplary lesson in design.
5. Quirkiest Toilet Experience: Dunnies with a Difference, the Toowoomba Portable Toilets, Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia
The "people with the orange toilets" design and manufacture public toilets for events. Most notable is their prestige range - Dunnies with a Difference - which includes the Rustic Cottage, the London Telephone Box, Brighton Beach House, and the VIP unit.
Judge's comment: The Dunnies with a Difference range transforms toilets from something you hide at outdoor events into wonderful quirky attractions that add real value because they are so pretty, functional, hygienic and mobile.
6. Best Accessible Toilet: Arthurs Seat Public Toilet, Arthurs Seat Park, Victoria, Australia
Opened in January 2017 by Parks Victoria, the toilet amenities building has been thoughtfully designed to meet the "toileting" needs of a diverse range of visitors to Arthurs Seat State Park such as tourists with disabilities, mobility limitations, visitors with young children, older people and tourists from culturally diverse backgrounds - there's even an Asian squat toilet.
Judge's comment: Beautifully designed; thoroughly functional, modern and inclusive; a highly impressive addition to the destination experience. I have never seen anything quite like this accessible toilet. It's a gold star, best practice example.