32 C
Kota Kinabalu
Ahad, April 21, 2024

Ministry to look into issues affecting the tourism sector

Liew stressing a point during the meeting with the Matta, Sabah/Labuan Chapter delegation.

KOTA KINABALU: Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Christina Liew said her ministry supports the effort of tour and travel agents in promoting tourism in Sabah, and will take up pertinent matters with the relevant agencies.

“Give us two weeks to work on resolving some of the setbacks for a favourable outcome, which include the price hike for the Mt Kinabalu Climb permit fee, and also for the entrance fee to Kinabalu National Park (which was implemented on January 1st this year).
“We will try our best to help in whatever way we can, knowing very well we are on the threshold of a tourism boom,” she said during a courtesy call by a five-member delegation from the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta), Sabah/Labuan Chapter led by its Chairman Lawrence Chin on Thursday.

Some of the unresolved concerns raised by the Sabah/Labuan Chapter include illegal tour operators (using white vans), lack of enforcement to apprehend the offenders, expired permit of tour buses and the need to renew the permit of these vehicles through Motac which may take up to three months.

The delegation also brought up other long-standing issues such as smelly airport toilets and the unsatisfactory level of environmental cleanliness in some districts which could mar the image of Sabah.

In 2019, during the debate on the National Budget 2020 in the Dewan Rakyat, Liew, then Tawau MP, had called on the Federal Government for devolution of power to empower the State Government to process, approve and issue tourism-related licences. These are the entry and exit licences for tourism agents; licences for tourist guides; licences for tourism vehicles (example, excursion buses); ticket licensing; and licences to manage tourism training schools or institutions.

Briefing Liew, the Sabah/Labuan Chapter Chairman lamented that most tour and travel agents are in “dire straits”, following the “nightmare” of the prolonged Covid-19 pandemic. “Without revenue, bosses can’t pay the salaries of staff. The scary experience had forced many tour guides to change jobs. Some opted for farming activities while others ventured into other industries for economic survival.”

Meanwhile, Honorary Secretary Alicia Gomes appealed to Liew for intervention in reducing or subsidising the SICC space rental fee of RM58,000 over three days for the upcoming MATTA Fair in May this year.
“We are targeting at least 150 booths to be put up there, but the exorbitant fees may drive potential participants away,” she said.

Chin explained that everybody will have a chance to set up their booth if the participation fee is lessened as it will cost the exhibitors about RM100,000 to stage the fair. “We may even get outbound tour agents to join the fair, and cultural organisations to come in and promote their ‘art and culture’ products.”

In response, the Minister requested Matta, Sabah/Labuan Chapter to submit a Matta Fair rental fee proposal paper for the Ministry’s consideration.

Also present were Vice-Chairman Christina Wahida Kong and Committee Members Mohd Azlan Saleh Abd Salam and Chai Chie Rong.