KOTA KINABALU: The shortage of foreign speaking tour guides can be addressed through positive measures such as training local guides in foreign languages, Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) deputy president Datuk Eric Majimbun, said.
This is the short-term measure and for the long term, the federal government through the relevant ministries like the human resource development and the tourism ministries should consider setting up institutions where locals could learn foreign languages, he added.
The Sepanggar member of parliament said this in response to the Tourism Ministry’s decision to allow Koreans to take up the localized tour guide course in Sabah.
Tourism Minister Datuk Ng Yen Yen had defended the decision and said it was done because there was a shortage of Korean speaking guides in Sabah which was fast becoming a popular holiday destination for Koreans.
She added that the Korean government had through its Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, made a request to have more Korean speaking guides in Sabah and that allowing Koreans to be trained as tour guides was just a temporary measure until the Sabah Tour Guides Association (STGA) could increase the number of its Korean speaking guides.
Eric was of the opinion that the decision was an insult to the tour guiding fraternity in Sabah.
“If this is a temporary measure, then how long will these Korean guides’ work permits and guiding licences be valid?” he said.
Eric also echoed STGA’s worries about the temporary Korean guides’ knowledge about Sabah’s culture and tradition as well as what they would be telling their fellow citizens in their commentary.
“Who will be monitoring what they are saying? How are we to know if their facts and information are accurate? We do not want the wrong information about our beloved state be told to tourists,” he stressed.
To him, the decision was akin to the act of an intruder encroaching into another person’s territory.
“The intruder is suppressing the rice bowl of our local entrepreneurs and therefore the decision must be rescinded. Also the local tourism authorities must support and prioritize Sabahans so that they do not end up being marginalized by those who are only interested in making a profit,” he said.
Another SAPP leader, Datuk Richard Yong, said the reasons provided by Ng to justify her ministry’s decision to localize the Korean tourist guides is absurd.
He said the ministry’s responsibility is to help boost the growth of tourism
industry as a whole without compromising the interest of the local tourism industry.
Localizing the Korean tourist guides is directly taking over the role of the local tourist guides equivalent of taking over their rice bowl, he pointed out in a statement yesterday.
“I have not seen any country doing such thing that could hurt their own tourism industry. You always get to have a local tourist guide to accompany the tourist group when you take a tour in foreign country.
“In Sabah’s case the local tourist guides will be taken over by the Korean guides because they have got the local licence to guide,” added Yong.
He said the minister had overlooked the interest of Sabah tourism and had failed to see the difficulties and problems faced by the local tourist guides in terms of income and opportunities.
“It is very disappointing that the Sabah Ministry of Tourism has not spoken up for our local tourists guides who are actually the lifeline of the tourist industry in Sabah.
“The Federal Tourism Ministry must re-consider their decision by looking at the larger interest, help the local tourists guides instead of looking for short-cut solution to the Korean guide shortage problem. The ministry’s decision could be sending wrong signals to the foreign tour companies. Once they start doing the same could lead to the demise of the local tourism industry,” said Yong.