Published on: Wednesday, August 06, 2014
Kota Kinabalu: The tourism industry in the east coast of Sabah has not suffered any loss from the curfew exercise implemented in the area since July 19.
In fact, said Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun, the tourists are surprisingly happy about the move since they feel safer because of the exercise.
"One tourist said he can now go sightseeing without any fear, not having to look over his shoulder all the time," he said, adding that even the resort in Mabul where a kidnapping case took place a few months ago reported that they are fully occupied.
However, Masidi said there is a big drop in the number of Chinese tourist arrivals to Sabah.
"But we have never stopped promoting Sabah in China. Datuk Pang Nyuk Ming continued to go there every month. At the same time, it would be unwise for us to put all our eggs in one basket.
"That is why we are trying to look at the USA in the Pacific region since there are already flights between Seoul and Hong Kong and San Francisco by Aseana.
We have eight Aseana flights from Seoul and we are targeting San Francisco because of better air connectivity.
"I think we need to work with some common sense. It is useless promoting to an area where we hardly have any flight that connects to this part of the world," he said.
Masidi, however, assured that the ministry will continue to expand Sabah's market to other areas without sacrificing its work in China.
He added that although Chinese tourists have stopped coming to Sabah in big groups, there are still many independent travellers from the country who come here.
"This drop had affected retail businesses in Kota Kinabalu. But I am confident they will come back," he said.
Meanwhile, regarding the curfew covering the waters off six districts in Sabah's east coast, Masidi said the Government had received complaints from local fishermen who claimed that the curfew had affected their livelihood.
However, he said, since most of the fishermen do not go beyond the three nautical miles offshore where the curfew is being implemented, the fishing communities are not severely affected.
"Of course, if they go beyond that, our security forces will warn them.
They could apply for exemption but so far, nobody had done so.
According to the police, they seem to be quite okay for the time being.
"I am more interested in the long-term strategy to ensure the security of Sabah, which will come up following this curfew.
I think what they are doing at the moment is basically to engage in many preliminary strategies to find out what is the best step to be taken in the long term," he said.
The curfew in the areas had been extended for another 14 days until Aug 17.
The dusk-to-dawn curfew was first implemented on July 19. During that time, Esscom detained 46 fishermen, aged between 19 and 50, and stopped 11 boats for defying the curfew in eight incidents.
According to Esscom Commander Datuk Abdul Rashid Harun, the police have issued permits for three fishermen in Tawau and 37 in Sandakan.