KOTA KINABALU: Insitute for Development Studies (IDS) Sabah chairman Tan Sri Simon Sipaun hopes that the government and relevant authorities will implement the tourism masterplans developed by the institute or else the energy, time and money spent on formulating the masterplans will be a waste.
He said IDS had completed major tourism studies during the last few years, including the Second Tourism Masterplan, Coastal Tourism Masterplan for Tuaran and Kota Belud, and the Northern West Coast Tourism Masterplan for Kota Marudu and Kudat.
“It is IDS’ sincere hope that the government and relevant authorities will take full advantage of these masterplans by implementing them otherwise the main purpose of formulating them will turn out to be an exercise in futility.
“It will be a waste of energy, time and money,” Sipaun said that in his welcoming remarks at the launching of the Seminar on Development of Sustainable Tourism in the Rural Areas of Sabah here yesterday.
The seminar, organized by IDS in collaboration with Sabah Tourism Board (STB), was officiated by Datu Rosmadi Datu Sulai, the Permanent Secretary of the Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry on behalf of the minister, Christina Liew.
On another note, Sipaun said tourism was a sunrise industry which did not necessarily require a large amount of capital.
“Sabah’s tourism resources are nature-based. They have great potential to be developed to bring benefits to the people, especially those living in the rural areas.”
However, he stressed that tourist infrastructure facilities must be upgraded.
“The main challenges facing the tourism industry include lack of basic infrastructure, management skills, financial support and guidance to local villagers in starting and managing tourism businesses.”
Sipaun also said that most of the tourist attractions in the rural areas emerged due to ad hoc demand from tour operators in search for new products.
A case in point is the proliferation of river cruise destinations in the west coast during the past five years from Weston to Kota Belud to meet the demand generated by the increase of tourist arrivals especially from China and Korea, he said.
He continued to say that most of the river cruise operations were owned by non-local tour operators.
“The local contents are restricted to locals being employed and in the supply of food and local delicacies to the restaurants owned by these operators.
“Some locals who tried to start their own river cruise operations are struggling to survive due to lack of marketing skills and they continue to depend on outside tour operators for clients.”
Due to the shortage or lack of dedicated infrastructures and facilities associated with tourist activities in the rural areas, Sipaun said tour operators were forced to share them including road access, jetty, public toilets, electricity and power supply.
“Inadequate maintenance of these facilities could also compromise the safety of tourists.”