Wednesday, April 14

Sabah needs to do more to make visitors feel safe, welcome – council

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Yong (sixth from right) and other visitors from Malaysia China Business Council with Joniston (fifth from right).

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah is a tourism haven, and is capable of attracting more visitors than before but this is hampered with not only the current pandemic but also internal existing issues like security, fish bombings and other related concerns.

Malaysia China Business Council (MCBC) director Datuk Philip Yong said the state government should therefore put more emphasis on safety and security for tourists when they visit Sabah.

In this respect, Yong feels that apart from security matters, the state tourism industry should also look at airport management and authorities, how they treat visitors, problems of unlicensed guides and tour drivers, and unlicensed accommodations.

“To attract and keep visitors returning to Sabah, they have to feel safe, welcomed and wanted,” he said after paying a courtesy call on Sabah Tourism Board (STB) chairman Datuk Joniston Bangkuai on Wednesday (April 7).

“Visitors must be treated with respect and warmth, be it from locals, traders, business operators or from security personnel,” he stressed.

Yong said many times when visitors were asked to state their dissatisfaction in Sabah, they would say that officials from the Immigration or Police Department were not friendly, polite, or helpful enough.

He said Sabah could perhaps take the example of Vietnam or Macau and the likes to have a proper tourist police unit that are well trained to handle visitors and their problems faced here accordingly.

He said this can help tourists feel safe and reduce misunderstandings in terms of communication and other matters.

As for matters involving unlicensed guides, accommodations and tour buses without permits, he said it would need strict and committed political and enforcement intervention.

“As long as the authorities have the will to really look into these issues and go down hard on offenders, I believe we can solve the problem in no time,” he said.

During the courtesy call, Joniston heard more about the issues faced by the state tourism industry and suggestions from MCBC on how to not only increase the sense of security amongst tourists, but also on how authorities deal with visitors.

He said that as STB is under the federal list, many policies and actions need to go through the Federal Government.

“All the grouses raised by MCBC could be brought up for discussion in the STB’s Industrial Support Committee,” Joniston said.

“Representatives from MCBC and the relevant federal authorities in Sabah such as the Immigration Department, Malaysia Airports Berhad and Police would be invited to the meeting,” he added.

Joniston said the STB committee would be tasked with coming up with proposed solutions to the issues raised and bring them to the attention of higher ups in Kuala Lumpur.