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Masidi voices concern power tariff hike may affect tourist arrivals

Published on: Friday, February 28, 2014

Kota Kinabalu: Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun has expressed concern that the nationwide electricity tariff hike, which took effect on Jan 1, may to a certain extent affect the State's tourist arrival figure this year.

Sabah received two million domestic tourists last year, the first in the State's history, and one million in foreign tourist arrivals, which is also a record.

He said this is especially because domestic tourists may decide to cut cost in other aspects, which include less travelling for them, because of the increase in their electricity bill.

"That is why we are setting a cautiously optimistic target in terms of tourist arrivals for this year. For this year, we are just targeting about two per cent growth in the number of tourist arrivals," he told reporters during an appreciation luncheon hosted by the Ministry for the State winners in the recent Malaysian Tourism Award ceremony held in Kuala Lumpur.

Masidi also hoped hotel and resort operators in the State would help out by keeping their room rates at a healthy level that is affordable to both domestic and international tourists.

"I think we need to be careful because we cannot spoil the very reasons why people are coming to Sabah and I hope the hotel industry will continue to maintain a healthy rate that is affordable to both domestic as well as international tourists," he said.

"At the moment, it (room rate) is high. You are talking about an average RM500 to RM800 per night, which is high, I mean it is bad news that we like, especially at the hotel industry but at the same time, it may have repercussions on domestic tourism," he said.

He said this rate maybe just average or still low for international/foreign tourists but to the domestic tourists it is really quite high.

"So we do not want to lose the domestic tourists too. For the first time, the domestic tourist arrivals touched the two million mark and for the first time in history, the international arrivals also touched the one million mark and this is something good for us," he said.

On the shortage of 5-star hotel rooms, he said this is expected to be eased when JW Marriott at the city waterfront starts operations at the end of this year and Kota Kinabalu Hilton is anticipated to begin operations in the first quarter of 2015.

On business people here who intentionally increase the prices of their products especially seafood being sold to the tourists at high prices just to profit from their increasing number in the State, Masidi advised them to be careful because people have choice.

"If the price outside is similar with the hotel then they would rather eat in the hotel. They should not be too greedyÉdon't kill the goose that lays the golden eggs," he said.

"If we are too greedy, we may lose the reason why people want to go there. I mean I can understand you want to make a profit but put it this way; stay for the long term.

"The industry is not a stock market where you make an "overnight kill" and make money and run off. It is an industry that sustains itself and the better you manage yourself, the more you will make in the future," he said.

Asked if the Ministry has assigned anyone to monitor this situation, he said it is very unfortunate that the Ministry does not have the power to control the prices (of items being sold to the tourists) but "we hope our people will use common sense and reason that this industry is getting competitive.

People have a choice where to go and I'm sure over time some smart fellows will open a restaurant that will rival them and cheaperÉalways remember that where there is action, there is reaction."

Masidi also announced that Sandakan, which the Ministry is aggressively promoting to tourists as a destination for the best seafood, will see the first charter flight arrival from China in June this year.

"Sabah Tourism Board, in cooperation with Sandakan Municipal Council, is making preparations to make Sandakan attractive.

The Ministry has also given some money to the Municipal Council to clean up Pulau Berhala beach and hopefully the Chinese tourists will find it attractive, go there for a day trip and come back to Sandakan. Apart from that, we have also given them some money to clean up the town to prepare it to receive the tourists," he said.

On the effort to limit number of visitors to the islands, Masidi said he is now waiting for the report from a taskforce headed by his Ministry's permanent secretary.

On whether the number of climbers for Mount Kinabalu would be reduced following the recent fatal accident involving a foreign tourist there, he said so far there is no such plan.

"I think we should not be panicking just because there was an accident.

We should keep calm and find out why it happened and take mitigating measures. Don't forget it's the first time in history somebody fell from the top of Mount Kinabalu," he said.

Commending all the State recipients of the Malaysian Tourism Award, he said it just further boosts the Ministry's confidence that the State tourism industry development is moving on the right track.

"Sabahans are the real tourism product that continue to attract tourists - the people themselves.

And it is for that reason, I think, we should continue to be what we are. Don't change ourselves. Don't imitate others.

We are already unique in our own way. If we can maintain it well, trust me, more people will come over to Sabah," he said.