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Frontliners must do their bit for VMY: CM

Published on: Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Kota Kinabalu: The task of promoting tourism not only depends on the Ministry, department and agencies involved but also the frontliners ranging from taxi drivers to tourist guides.

"All quarters, especially frontlinersÉmust give their best.

Be accommodating, friendly and helpful," Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman said during the New Year's Day and Visit Malaysia Year Countdown 2014, here, Tuesday.

"They have an important role to play in welcoming the anticipated 3.4 million visitors and targeted revenue of RM6.277 billion from tourism this Visit Malaysia Year (VMY)," he said.

Musa noted that the VMY 2014 branding theme, "Celebrating 1Malaysia, Truly Asia" as suiting for the country, especially for Sabahans.

He said the local communities could also chip-in, adding that overall Malaysia expects to welcome 28 million visitors, chalking up an estimated RM76 billion in revenue.

He also urged that more cultural and community events be carried out in conjunction with VMY 2014 by the Ministry, agencies and local governments, especially those that reflect the diverse and unique cultures and customs of respective districts in Sabah.

"I hope all Malaysians in Sabah will ensure that we are the 'best hosts' to our visitors," he said. He reminded that Sabah is a tourism magnet due to its political stability, economic prosperity, rich biodiversity and prevailing unity, peace and harmony among various races, ethnic, religion and cultures.

Such strengths, he said, must be highlighted, protected and appreciated all the time as this has made Sabah the model of a true "1Malaysia" spirit which was envisioned by the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

Meanwhile, the State Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry and tourism operators have a daunting task in 2014 - restoring the confidence of its international partners that Sabah is safe.

Its Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun said this was largely due to several "bitter sweet" incidents of 2013, apparently referring to the Lahad Datu incursion by the so-called Royal Sulu army in the beginning of the year.

The end of the year saw the kidnap-murder of a couple from Taiwan which made several nations issue advice when travelling to Sabah.

"Although there had been some not-so-positive news on Sabah, tourist arrivals continue to increase. This number shows that Sabah is very safe," he said, at the Visit Malaysia Year and New Year Countdown event, here.

Masidi noted no drastic booking cancellations on flights and hotels, adding visitors even complained about overbooked hotel rooms.

For the first 10 months of 2013, Sabah welcomed 2.552 million visitors or 21 per cent up from the previous year.

The figure constitutes 17 per cent up on domestic tourists, while 84 per cent up on visitors from China and Hong Kong. Masidi attributed the Chinese visitor boom to the record number of charter flights to Sabah - 237.

To date, Sabah has 18 direct non-stop international flights with AirAsia Kota Kinabalu-Hangzhou the latest and fourth destination to KKIA from China by the budget airline, after Guangzhou, Shenzen and Shanghai.

Others include KK-Kota Baru, KK-Cebu, Tokyo and Perth.

Masidi said the start of the Star Cruises Aquarius service that has made KK its homeport also augurs well for Sabah.

"Among others KK being listed as one of the 'Top 10 Rising Destinations' by Tripadvisor based on the comments of visitors to Sabah I hope will also attract many investors to Sabah," he said.

Noting that the Ministry and operators will work extra hard to restore the safe image of Sabah, Masidi said having such recognition would encourage local players to work harder.

He said with the opening of VMY 2014, Sabah will hos the Sabah Masters golf tourney and other events like the Regatta Lepa, Borneo Bird Race and Sunset Music Fest as promoted in the Mega Events and Festival of VMY 2014.