Move to promote Sabah tourism to European, Australian markets

Liaw (sixth right) presents a souvenir to Christina while the others look on.

KOTA KINABALU: The Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment is looking into promoting Sabah tourism to the European and Australian markets.

Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment, Christina Liew, said, the ministry would send officers to negotiate with their European and Australian counterparts for this purpose by the end of this year.

Christina, who is also the Deputy Chief Minister, said the promotion of our tourism industry should not only be confined to the Chinese markets.

“We want to start promoting to the European and Australian markets. We used to have done so but it has slowed down,” she said during a courtesy call by the Sabah Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Satta) led by its president, Datuk Seri Winston Liaw, here yesterday.

Christina said, European tourists were considered as the high-end market, who tend to stay longer than the Chinese tourists. She said there should be a balance of Chinese tourists in the lower and medium end spectrum and high-end European tourists.

On another note, Christina said, her ministry would study the possibility of centralizing or standardizing the quality of tour guides. One of the ways to do so was to have training for tour guides in place, she said, adding that her ministry used to provide the training but it was suspended.

“I propose for the training to be revived,” she said.

According to her, tour guides were required to acquire certain knowledge, such as the background and history of tourism hot spots.

Christina also expressed her surprise upon learning from Satta that there were hardly any Chinese-speaking tour guides in Sandakan and Tawau.

Meanwhile, Liaw said that they looked forward to working closely with the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment to promote the industry.

He also informed Christina that Shenzhen Airlines would be mounting four times weekly direct flights to Kota Kinabalu in mid-October this year.

He has proposed to the airline to fly direct from Shenzhen to Tawau as well given that AirAsia flights to Tawau were always fully packed, mostly with Chinese tourists.

Additionally, Liaw raised the issue of Chinese tour leaders who did guiding work instead of using local guides in Sabah, claiming that some tour leaders exploited loopholes in our regulation by employing local tour guides just to sit in to comply with the law, while the tour leaders did the commentary themselves.

He hoped the ministry would look into the issue as the problem would kill the tour guides industry.

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