KOTA KINABALU 12/11/2012: Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun has urged tourism players in Sabah to prepare for the eventual liberalization of the industry.
“The trend is towards liberalization, so my advice to tourism players in Sabah is to gear up for the eventual liberalization of every industry in the world. Malaysia is a member of the international committee and if you look at it, the trend is towards liberalization, that is eventually there will only be one system to operate in the world. So we need to prepare for it.
“If you look at our policy prior to this, similar to the liberalization of the financial industry is the amalgamation of all banks (so) we need to look at this as a guide to what can be done. My opinion is that the players in Sabah need to be as big as the foreign players so that we can compete with them,” Masidi said at the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) Sabah Chapter annual dinner on Saturday night.
He said this when asked what was his advice to the state’s tourism industry in view of the liberalization of the service sector in the region.
Masidi was of the opinion that the tourism sector working and operating as a small unit may not be able to compete with the bigger boys in the future.
“I am not suggesting but perhaps all the players need to think about the possibility that one day they may have no choice but to amalgamate into bigger companies so that they can compete with any companies in the world.
“We will protect as far as possible and as long as possible the local players but eventually the sheer force of liberalization would be something that we cannot stop. The state operation is still within our capacity control but in the future when the industry grows, then obviously there may be a situation whereby it is so internationalized that you may not have any control over it and that is the reason why I said you avoid drowning by learning how to swim and not by staying away from the river or the sea,” he stressed.
In his speech earlier, Masidi said that people learn to improve by not prohibiting themselves in the narrow confines of their space. They need to explore and open up so that they can do better.
“We need to make sure that we are a global player and not just ‘jaguh kampung’… we must be good not only in Sabah but also globally as we already have everything to be a world class player,” he said.
On the issue of MATTA Sabah Chapter’s worry about the government’s policy allowing foreign-owned travel agencies to operate in Malaysia and Sabah, Masidi said he agreed with the association’s opinion that there is a need to nurture the local industry before opening it up to foreigners.
However, there is need to have a time frame before the foreign companies are allowed to set up business in Sabah, he said and reminded the local tourism players of the need to work together because they all in one team called ‘tourism’.
Speaking to reporters later, Masidi pointed out that MATTA Sabah has objected to allowing 100 per cent owned companies to operate in Sabah.
“I said yes for the time being too but eventually liberalization will happen and this policy has to be reciprocal. If Malaysians want to open up overseas, that country will also want to be able to do the same in Malaysia.
“So really we are in catch 22 situation. If you want the industry to grow you need to open up and become bigger,” he said.
To the question if the liberalization will bring positive impact to Sabah and Malaysia, Masidi replied, “obviously the volume will increase and we have to accept the fact that at this point of time our players are not able to exploit all the potential over the world and some of this can only be exploited by foreigners.
“It is normal, if I want more Japanese to come here the first person to exploit the business must be Japanese himself. They know their people better than us. What I am saying is that so long as we can, we will give priority to locals. It may not happen during my time, we have no choice but to get ready,” he stressed.
Masidi in his speech also called on local authorities to look into the cleanliness of their respective areas as the lack of cleanliness will spoil the state’s tourism industry.
by Nancy Lai