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Tourism safety priority
Published on: Thursday, February 08, 2007

Kota Kinabalu: Tourism, Culture and Environment Assistant Minister Datuk Karim Bujang said efforts on the safety of tourism attractions must remain a priority for all concerned including the tourism stakeholders and relevant government agencies in the State. They should not allow "lack of attention" or "greed for profits alone" to tarnish Sabah's image as a popular destination, he said.

"We have to work hard to achieve the target set by the Chief Minister to receive 2.7 million arrivals and RM3.2billion in tourism receipts during this Visit Malaysia Year 2007," he said.

This would be an increase from the 2.09 million visitors to Sabah last year.

"We have to work hard to achieve this goal. The success of VMY 2007 is within our grasp but concerted efforts to ensure our tourism attractions are safe and safety measures are in place must remain our priority," said Karim.

He said recent unfortunate events involving tourists have opened up avenues for criticism and doubts regarding safety and rescue procedures in the State, referring to the series of drownings at the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park here and a tourist passenger boat capsizing off the East Coast.

"We need to counter negative perceptions that may arise from these in a constructive mannerÉwe need to be proactive, prepared and able to predict things before they happen," he said at the opening of a seminar on maritime security jointly organised by Royal Malaysian Navy and Sabah Tourism Board (STB) at Pacific Sutera Hotel here Wednesday.

Also present were the Navy's Region Two Commander Rear Admiral Datuk Ahmad Kamarulzaman Ahmad Badaruddin, STB Chairman Tengku Datuk Dr Zainal Adlin Tengku Mahmood, its General Manager Datuk Irene Charuruk, and Sabah Tourist Association (STA) President Clement Lee, among others.

On the seminar meant for tourism stakeholders in the State, Karim said it is of utmost importance to the State's tourism industry primarily because Sabah is surrounded by the South China Sea, Sulu Sea and Celebes Sea with a coastline of 1,440km (about 900 miles).

"Many of our major tourism assets and attractions are sea or water based. Two prime examples are our diving sites and the popular Tunku Abdul Rahman Park islands" he said.

In 2005 alone, more than 150,000 visitors visited the park islands making it the third most popular attraction after Poring and Kinabalu Park.

"We are known worldwide for Sipadan where more than 12,000 came last year to dive at this tiny jewel. For this reason, we have a duty to preserve our waters and protect it from not only environmental adversity but also from human intimidation," he said.

People get into difficulties at sea for a variety of reasons, he said, adding these include lack of education, training and/or knowledge, failure to take responsibility for actions, not being prepared for the conditions (water and/or weather) and underestimating the hazards present, not preparing the vessel properly and conflict of use between different users.

"There should be an interface between the areas of beach safety and sea safety as clearly some beach users also launch craft from the beach and use the seaÉthis is an area where the forum can try and effect some improvement."

He said the Ministry has stressed and reminded the State's tourism stakeholders that safety issues as well as security are of prime importance and must not be taken lightly.

"We have to be hands-on and must have our course of actions all laid out for any possible incidents/accidents or mishaps," he said, commending the navy for volunteering to enhance knowledge among those concerned on safety and rescue.

He also urged tourism stakeholders to take the opportunity to increase their networking with the relevant maritime security agencies and their personnel, to enable them to know the right agencies and key personnel they can contact should an untoward incident happen and where rescue is of utmost necessity.



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