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Tourism recovery may take long
Published on: Thursday, June 19, 2014

Kota Kinabalu: Monday's kidnapping incident in Kunak has somehow put the brakes on the State's initiative to return to normalcy, just when everything seems to be settling down, said State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Datuk Masidi Manjun.

Referring to the statement by Federal Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz that the impact by the four cross-border kidnappings was worse than that of the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight (MH370), he said: "He is correct and that is exactly what I have said earlier.

Nevertheless, these are the challenges we have to face with fortitude."

Masidi said this when met after officiating at the Excellence Award presentation for teachers and senior education officers, Wednesday.

A total of 224 teachers and education officers Statewide were given the award during the ceremony organised by the State Education Department.

Also present was State Director Datuk Jame Alip.

On Monday, a fish breeder and his worker were abducted by two armed men in Kg Sapang, west of Pulau Timbun Mata, Semporna, marking the third such incident in the east coast of the State this year and fourth in six months.

On May 6, five armed men abducted a 34-year-old Chinese manager of a fish breeding company in Pulau Batik in Lahad Datu, just a month after a Chinese national and a Filipino resort worker were abducted from the Singamata Reef Resort off Semporna. Last November, a Taiwanese tourist was shot dead and his companion kidnapped and taken to Southern Philippines.

Masidi said there is no industry or no country in the world without challenges.

"I think we need to operate within our own circumstances which in this case involves security issue, but I am sure over time our security forces will be able to overcome this problem.

"Of course, it will in a way put a bit of a dent in our efforts to promote tourism, but I would rather look at things in the long term," he said.

Echoing similar view, Deputy Datuk Pang Yuk Ming fears that the latest kidnapping incident in Sabah may have dashed Sabah's hopes that Chinese tourists will return to its shores.

Pang said there has already been a drop in the number of Chinese tourist arrivals the last four months. He feared the trend would continue through the year due to this. "The statistics for May and June are critical.

However, we have not received them yet," he said.

"We used to see a lot of Chinese tourists in Gaya Street, but now there are not plenty around and shop operators as well as handcraft traders complained about their businesses not doing well.

"I totally agree with the statement by Mohamed Nazri that the kidnapping incidents in Sabah had bigger impact on Malaysian tourism, especially in Sabah, compared to the missing MH370 flight incident," he said.

Pang said Sabah depends a lot on tourism besides the oil and gas industry as well as plantation industry.

"There are only a small group of people who would benefit from the oil and gas industry and also people seem to have less interest towards both the industries.

"The plantation industry on the other hand would not have much effect on the people in Sabah as most of the companies are from the peninsula," he said.

But the tourism industry, unlike the rest, would have a bigger impact on everyone be it taxi drivers, food traders, hotels, agents, homestays and others.

"Besides, most of our younger generation are interested in tourism," he said.

Towards this end he hoped that everything will be back to normal by next year with aggressive marketing plans.

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