KOTA KINABALU (Aug 17): Representatives from western nations are advised to come to Sabah and assess the security situation for themselves in the wake of the persistent travel advisory to avoid non-essential travel to the east coast of Sabah, from Kudat southward to Tawau, due to the risk of kidnapping.
Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Christina Liew offered this advice during a press conference to announce the 2nd TTLX Summit with the theme “Experience Tourism” at Hilton Kota Kinabalu on Thursday.
“As much as we want to tell the world that Sabah (in Malaysia) is a safe destination for tourism, the travel advisory against visiting certain areas on the East Coast is still there. We have taken up this issue, accordingly,” she said.
The minister was responding to a question from the Malaysian International Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MICCI), Sabah Branch chairman Datuk Lee Swi Heng who wanted to know the Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry’s (KePKAS) and Sabah Tourism Board’s (STB) plans pertaining to the travel advisory (against travelling to certain parts of Sabah).
“While we promote tourism and tell the world that Sabah is a safe place, how do the authorities address the travel advisory and what platform should they use, given that western countries look at Sabah with a different kind of perspective?” he asked.
Citing the personal visit of the Ambassador of Germany to Malaysia, Dr Peter Blomeyer as an example, Liew said the ambassador was on a fact-finding mission to Sabah in June this year.
“We had a meeting, and we discussed the issue (travel advisory). In fact, he went all the way to visit the East Coast of Sabah to assess the security situation there. He wanted to convince himself that Sabah is indeed a safe place now,” Liew recalled.
During the courtesy call on the minister, Dr Blomeyer assured that the German Embassy in Kuala Lumpur will help promote Sabah as an ideal destination for MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conventions & Exhibitions) events, after learning about the imposing Sabah International Convention Centre (SICC).
Liew said the last “bad incidents” (in apparent reference to the Sipadan and Pandanan kidnappings in 2000) happened about 20 years ago, and since then, Sabah has been quite safe. “However, the generation of publicity on the episodes was bad until today. So, unfortunately, we cannot tell them (western countries), ‘Look, we are very safe.’ But we invite them to come and see for themselves. We will have a dialogue for them to understand the real situation on the ground.”
She concluded: “The decision to lift the travel advisory is up to the countries concerned. But we provide what we can and let them know this is what we are doing in terms of security.”
The second TTLx Summit 2023 will be held at the Sabah International Convention Centre (SICC) on September 27-28.
Liew said TTLx Summit 2023 is not just a platform for discussion, but participants will witness the unveiling of innovative ideas, strategic partnerships and policy frameworks that promise to reshape the tourism landscape for the better.
“This year, the focus of the TTLx Summit 2023 with the theme ‘Experience Tourism!’ is on exploring and promoting the concept of experiential tourism. Experiential tourism involves creating immersive and engaging experiences for travellers that go beyond the traditional sightseeing and relaxation aspects of travel.
“Instead, it emphasises active participation, personal connections, and cultural interactions.
“During the TTLx Summit there will be a buyer-seller programme. We will have the privilege to host buyers, namely from countries such as India, Thailand, Singapore, Philippines, Australia and the United States. The buyers are interested in various tourism products in Sabah ranging from wellness tours, adventure packages, conference suppliers, accommodations and other ancillary products for leisure tourism and business events.
“Let us all embrace the opportunity to learn, engage, and forge connections that will drive the sustainable transformation of our industry,” she said at the press conference.
Also present during the event were CEO of Sabah Tourism Board, Noredah Othman, chairperson of Malaysian Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers (MACEOS) Datuk Rosmawati Lasuki, Director of Sabah Parks Dr Maklarin Lakim and CEO of TTLc Summit 2023 organiser Place Borneo Sdn Bhd, Mona Abdul Manap.
According to Liew, organisers are working with an NGO partner as part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) to increase the public’s awareness on the plight of the deaf community in Sabah through the Sabah Society for the Deaf.