by Nancy Lai
KOTA KINABALU 19/03/2013: The State and Federal tourism ministries have agreed to set up a joint ‘Tourism Recovery Committee’ to look at ways to help Sabah tourism industry which has taken a toll because of the ongoing conflict in Lahad Datu.
Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said that the committee would look into getting people to travel to Sabah again as the intrusion in Lahad Datu had affected the state’s tourism sector.
Masidi said that the committee would start off by setting up a RM500,000 fund on a 50-50 basis between the state and federal governments.
“We are trying to put up aggressive advertisements to woo back visitors and the fund will be used to do all the public relations work as we need to ‘sell’ back Sabah to the world.
“The fund that we proposed is going to be jointly managed by the state and federal tourism ministries,” he told reporters after officiating at the Visit Malaysia Year (VMY) 2014 briefing for tourism players in the state yesterday.
Masidi said the joint committee was not only an indication of good collaborative relationship between the state and federal governments as it reflects the federal government’s willingness to be fully involved in the recovery process of Sabah’s tourism industry.
“It will be set up and the Tourism Ministry’s Chief Secretary Datuk Dr Ong Hong Peng has agreed we will start working immediately. We do believe that with the development that is going on in Lahad Datu and the various decisions that have been made by the government the recovery will be fast,” he said, adding that the fund for the public relations work would be reviewed from time to time.
Masidi also said that all planned tourism events in Sabah such as the annual Regatta Lepa Lepa which is held in Semporna every April would proceed according to plan.
As far as Sabah is concerned, nothing has been cancelled or postponed, he said, adding that having the state as part and parcel of VMY 2014 was actually a stamp of confidence in Sabah’s security.
Masidi also lamented that for an industry that is quite young, a lot of people in the state’s tourism sector have been badly affected by the conflict in Lahad Datu.
“The tourism receipts for Sabah last year was RM5.2 billion compared to the national revenue of RM60.6 billion and it is just a pittance. This is being divided by many players in the industry and obviously they feel the pinch. Maybe not now but definitely they will feel it after sometime,” he said.
Masidi also expressed hope that the media will publish more positive news about the security situation in Sabah as many people have expressed their wariness about travelling to the state due to what is happening in Lahad Datu.
“I understand the fact that we need to amplify the seriousness of the intrusion but now I think that the security forces are on top of the problem so if possible, we should try to make it sound more positive for everyone.
“What is published in the media will indirectly influence people, I say this because people have told me that they get frightened by what they read,” he stressed.
Meanwhile, Malaysian Tourism Promotion Board Director General Datuk Mirza Mohammad Taiyab said that work to be done by the recovery committee would be over and above the Board’s regular promotion program.
“We have familiarization tours coming to different parts of the country and that will go on… RM500,000 may not look sufficient but on top of everything we will be doing what is necessary,” he said.
Ong added that the federal Tourism Ministry had confidence in the security situation in Sabah and would be supporting all the activities organised by the state government.