KOTA KINABALU 3rd May, 2012: Datuk Masidi Manjun has expressed the hope that organisers must first assess Sabah’s logistic capability in future before holding major events like the Tour de Borneo cycling race.
“If we are not careful we may end up chasing away tourists who are already in Sabah or intending to come here, instead of getting new ones.
“The industry is very sensitive to any issue that has direct impact on its efficiency,” the Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister said.
He was responding to public complaints including from tour operators, over the massive traffic jam caused by the cycling tour along the designated routes, between Kota Kinabalu and Kundasang, especially, on Tuesday.
Masidi also said there was a need to review the suitability of Sabah’s road system for such a race in future, citing that the closure of major roads in Sabah during the event has resulted in unimaginable inconveniences to many people especially motorists. “Not many knew about the road closure. Many motorists were trapped in the traffic jam for many hours due to this, some with hungry young kids in their cars.
“Tour agents and motorists were fuming mad as they could not proceed with their Mt Kinabalu tour or have to reschedule their clients’ return flights. In fact some tourists were reported to have demanded for refund,” he said.
He continued that bicycle race like Tour de Langkawi worked well in Pulau Langkawi because of the good network of roads on the island, where motorists have alternative roads to take to avoid the designated roads for the race. This was coupled with the fact that the island has a small population.
“But in Sabah if a tour bus full of tourists is caught by road closure along the Kundasang Tamparuli road, they would be stuck there for the next two hours to allow the cyclists to pass through, as there is no alternative road to take,” he pointed out.
Masidi however acknowledged that the Tour de Borneo was a sport tourism product.
Meanwhile, the chairman of Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) Sabah Chapter, KL Tan too expressed regret that the closure of the designated roads has caused misery and hardship to the community and tourists.
“Many motorists were trapped in their cars in Ranau yesterday because there are no alternative roads for them to escape.” he wrote in his SMS circulated to its members, as well as to Masidi and Deputy Commissioner of Police, Datuk Tan Kok Liang, on Tuesday.
In a separate SMS, he noted that he had spoken to the Deputy CP and the latter had given him assurance that police would assist to ensure tour vans and buses could reach Kinabalu Park by 9am (on Tuesday).
However, it was reliably learnt that several foreign tourists from a major resort missed their flight home, because of the massive traffic jam.
A lot of vehicles including express buses from Sandakan heading towards Kota Kinabalu, too were stranded in Kundasang for more than four hours.
And, many had to take a longer route via Tambunan to return to Kota Kinabalu.
A teacher from Ranau lamented that he had to traverse a dangerous gravel road to fetch his wife because the main road was closed to traffic until 5pm.
It was reliably learnt that the road between Kota Kinabalu and Ranau was closed from 2pm to 4pm, to allow the cyclists to pass through.
Tan also said the notice issued by the organizers of the event to the tour operators concerning the road closures was too short, if there was any.
Tour of Borneo which covers a total distance of 758.4 kilometres, started from Semporna and passed through Tawau, Lahad Datu, Sandakan, Sepilok, Kundasang and ends in Kota Kinabalu.
Its main objective is to promote interest in cycling among the younger generations in Sabah, and expose Malaysian riders to more international level competition, thus contributing to the development of cycling in Malaysia.
Meanwhile, Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) information chief Chong Pit Fah said he too received many complaints about the traffic jam between Tuaran and Kinarut.
“City dwellers were caught in traffic jam resulting in them having to take more than an hour to reach the city centre if they were driving from either Kepayan or Likas. In normal days, motorists from both areas would only take 10 minutes,” he noted.
He said while SAPP welcomed the staging of international sports events like the Tour of Borneo to better promote Sabah, the organisers must always plan and execute carefully, so as not to cause inconveniences to the people.
KOTA KINABALU May 3, 2012: Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) Sabah chairman KL Tan has taken the organiser of the Tour of Borneo 2012 (TOB) to task for the inconvenience caused to tour operators on May 1, the last day of the race.
Tan, in his Facebook page said: “The insensitivity of the organiser is a shame as the lack of communication of road closures has caused inconvenience and discomfort to tourists and loss of revenue to tour operators.
“Tour operators are adversely affected due to cancellation of tours to Kinabalu Park, City Tour and causing tourists to be stranded for hours. Some have missed their flights. Tour operators have also given refunds to tourists for the Kinabalu Park/Poring Hot Spring excursion.
“May 1, 2012 is a double tragedy for Kota Kinabalu. The city is crippled with closure of roads to accommodate some cyclists without taking cognizance of public interest and community benefits, people are stuck in traffic jams breaking their holiday mood. To add salt to injury, 453,564 customers of Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd were affected by a statewide power outage on April 30, and continued until today for some parts of Kota Kinabalu city,” the entry said.
When contacted yesterday, Tan lamented that the last minute intervention by the state police could not save the day as damage had been done.
“I managed to contact Sabah Deputy Police Commissioner Datuk Tan Kok Liang about the problem and he did the best to resolve it but the damage was already done. I however would like to express my appreciation to Datuk Tan for helping us,” he said.
According to Tan, information about the road closures on race days were not related to the public, especially those in the tour business.
The organiser of TOB 2012 should have been in constant contact with tourism authorities and players like Sabah Tourism Board, the Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry as well as MATTA about the race and its proceedings.
“They cannot just bulldoze their way with the event. The notice about road closures must also be published in the printed media. A notice letter to tour operators informing them about the road closures a month before the event would be of much help as this would allow the operators to plan ahead with the tours,” he said.
Tan lamented that most tours to Kinabalu Park and Poring Hotspring on May 1 had to be cancelled because of the road closures while those returning took about seven hours to reach the state capital.
“Is this the way to promote tourism in the state? Why can’t they do it in the outskirts of the state capital and only have the last leg in the city?” he questioned.
Tan also said he had requested tour operators that had made refunds to their guests for not being able to fulfill the tours due to the road closure to submit their report, including losses incurred, to MATTA in order for the latter to take appropriate action.