Effective communication helped regain Sabah’s tourism draw – Masidi


KOTA KINABALU: Effective communication has enabled the Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry to overcome negative publicity arising from incidents such as the Tanduo intrusion, kidnappings and the Mount Kinabalu earthquake to regain the State’s popularity as a tourist destination.

Its minister, Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun, said that these incidents had resulted in a drop in tourist arrivals but stressed that effective communication had enabled the State to bounce back.

“The Tanduo incident in 2013 saw a group of armed men from the Southern Philippines landing in the east coast of Sabah to claim the State and the bloody encounter had gone down in the history of Sabah as her first modern armed conflict,” Masidi revealed.

He said that within a week of the untoward incident, his ministry saw a drop in tourism arrivals to Sabah.

“Tanduo is but a small village in Sabah and is 130 kilometres away from Lahad Datu…nevertheless, the whole world perceived that it was the whole of Sabah (being impacted),” he said in his keynote address at the 11th Global Congress and Conferment Ceremony yesterday.

He added that his ministry worked to improve tourist confidence by simply explaining the matter.

He said the disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 also impacted tourism arrivals in Sabah.

“Tourists stopped coming to Sabah, so we explained that flying on Malaysia Airlines was not the only way to get to Sabah … we started promoting Sabah through other airlines,” Masidi said.

Yet another incident that affected tourism arrivals in Sabah was the Mount Kinabalu earthquake in 2013, he said.

Masidi said that while explaining to the public that mountain climbing might be stalled for a while, his ministry also used the opportunity to promote Sabah’s other attractions, such as her forests and islands.

“Due to the quake, we now created new trails and Mount Kinabalu climbing is again a major attraction in Sabah now,” he said.

As for the kidnapping incidents, Masidi described it as one of Sabah’s biggest problems.

Due to the kidnapping incidents, countries such as the US, Australia and UK issued travel advisory informing their citizens not to come to Sabah, he said.

He added that the country then set up the Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCom), which has helped improve the security situation in Sabah’s east coast.

In addition, cooperation with the Philippines government has also helped in the matter, he said.