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Matching tourism grant and travel pass
Published on: Saturday, July 11, 2020
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Yee
Kota Kinabalu: KiTA (Kinabatangan - Corridor of Life Tourism Operators Association) urged the State Government to spend more time engaging with the tourism stakeholders as different products and different locations within Sabah call for different types of assistance.

Its President Alexander Yee contended that tourism players are not in the same boat facing the sea of Covid-19 pandemic.

“Instead, we are in different boats, some of which are well-equipped and able to withstand the storm better, while others are smaller and have either fallen by the side or about to sink.

“We, tourism players, therefore require different subsidies or assistance schemes to see us through this crisis. Tourism products in the West Coast of Sabah such as Rumah Terbalik cater to a different market segment from the operators in the East Coast such as Sandakan, Kinabatangan and Semporna,” he told the brainstorming Tourism Industry Engagement Session, recently.

                                                                             Teo

Deputy Chief Minister cum Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment, Datuk Christina Liew chaired the session hosted by Sabah Tourism Board (STB).

Yee reiterated the need for tourism players to restore the people’s confidence to travel and re-brand their products as a Covid-19 safe tourism destination, saying Sabah has handled the pandemic well.

“We have the required facilities and manpower when the need arises. We need to lay down a set of standard operating procedures (SOPs), and accredit all tourism operators with a certain certificate when they adopt these SOPs.”

Disclosing that KiTA was setting aside RM200,000 for three initiatives, the President requested the Ministry to match the sum.

“Our member lodges are highly dependent on the European, Australian and New Zealand markets. Unfortunately, their borders are still closed right now, hence the need to boost domestic tourism for now.”

The initiatives, he said, are formulation of a new branding for Lower Kinabatangan tourism areas depicting a safe, responsible and trustworthy tourism belt; hosting 200 frontliners to stay in member lodges in KiTA’s effort to boost domestic tourism; and filming of a new norm Kinabatangan Tourism video starting June 2020.

While welcoming the calls for domestic tourism as a positive move, Yee deemed it too early because there is a lack of confidence to travel.

“For over two months, we have been told to stay at home and stay safe.

People will not suddenly flood the streets now to visit tourism destinations.”

According to him, Rumah Terbalik (Upside down house), for example, has re-opened since May 22 but received less than 200 visitors up till June 18.

“This is despite the management offering free entrance to all visitors in an effort to spur local tourism. Prior to the pandemic, the place received about 1,500 visitors just on Hari Raya day,” he shared.

Yee requested the State Government to reconsider giving financial aid, instead of the tourism subsidy of RM7 million in the form of 50pc discount for entrance fees at all State-run destinations (as announced by the Chief Minister). 

“My point is that it is not a cash injection, and secondly, the amount represents a RM14 million total entrance expenditure (RM7 million being 50pc discount), which is simply not realistic during this period of cash trap and lack of travelling confidence.

Instilling travellers’ confidence to visit Sabah again, promoting domestic tourism and compiling the Big Data for Tourism were among the issues expounded by the Sandakan Tourism Association (STAN).

Its President Teo Chee Kim said it is important to ensure that Sabah continues to be virus-free and give every visitor the confidence to visit our State again while implementing standard operating procedures (SOPs).

He urged the Government to consider one step further by working with the State Health Department to achieve a rapid turnaround time for Covid-19 Test “so that overseas visitors (once allowed to enter Sabah) can be tested on arrival and results available within hours.”

This, Teo said, will boost the visitors’ confidence that community spreading in Sabah is highly unlikely and they can have peace of mind when touring various parts of the State. “The cost of testing may be borne by the visitors themselves, but it will be a small price to ensure that Sabah remains virus-free. Currently, places like Hong Kong and Iceland have a similar testing regime in place before their planned reopening.”

To boost domestic tourism, the Stan President also urged the State Government to consider extending the ruling on exemption from the mandatory Covid-19 Test (3 days prior) to the expatriate or foreign community residing in Peninsular Malaysia.

“All Malaysians are now allowed to travel to Sabah without the mandatory test. However, this does not apply to expatriates living in Peninsular Malaysia,” he pointed out, adding that expatriates remain the main target market for ecotourism sites in Sabah.

He emphasised the crucial need for the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment, through the Sabah Tourism Board (STB), to compile as much data as possible.

Calling for introduction of the Sabah Travel Pass, Teo suggested that instead of subsidising 50pc of the entrance fees to selected tourist sites, the Ministry should gather all industry players, tour operators, hotels, resorts, restaurants, transporters and souvenir shop-owners in the State to participate in this Sabah Travel Pass programme.

“Under this programme, visitors will be able to purchase vouchers online to be spent when they arrive in Sabah, and the vouchers will be worth more than it costs the visitors.

“For example, a RM100 purchase will entitle the visitors to spend RM200 in any participating outlets while in Sabah, hence enticing more people to buy and spend,” he explained.


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