KOTA KINABALU: The state government is committed to efforts to rejuvenate the tourism industry in Sabah during this Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO) period and post-COVID-19.
Deputy Chief Minister, Datuk Christina Liew said this was manifested in the Sabah New Deal as unveiled by Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal on Thursday.
The government is paying serious thought and attention to efforts to kick-start domestic tourism for now. Under the Sabah New Deal, a financial allocation of RM22 million has been earmarked for revival of the tourism sector.
Of the sum, RM10 million will be utilised for the upgrading of tourism infrastructure, RM7 million is for the purpose of offsetting the 50pc discount for entrance fees to tourist destinations, and the remaining RM5 million is meant to finance the local hotel industry promotion incentives.
"I believe that with a concerted effort, concrete plans and strategies, our industry can pull through this crisis and emerge stronger to bring Sabah back to its days of glory," she told the inaugural Sabah Tourism Engagement Session with industry players, airlines, hotels and other stakeholders this week.
Liew, who is also Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment, urged tourism player and tourist associations to avail themselves of the RM60 million allocation under the New Deal which aimed to facilitate the private sector's transition to digital economy.
"Such transformation towards e-commerce as a digital tool is the way forward for the private sector to grab economic opportunities in this new norm era," she said.
Earlier, in her opening remarks, Liew said the brainstorming session was to discuss ways to synergise efforts to restore the tourism industry with the collaboration of her ministry, spearheaded by the STB, together with all stakeholders.
"Leadership alone is not enough to pull a company through an economic crisis such as the one we are facing now. One man or even 'a few good men' cannot steer a ship in this 'perfect storm'. We must have 'all hands on deck', and thus require the best crew with leaders in each and every sector operating at near to maximum capacity to weather this unprecedented storm," she said.
The Minister, who was accompanied by the chairman of Sabah Tourism Board (STB), Ken Pan Ying On and the ministry's permanent secretary, Dr Jamili Nais, noted the industry's call to the government to allay the people's fears and restore their confidence at least in domestic travel.
"At this stage, asking Malaysians to stay home defeats the tourism players' efforts to promote domestic tourism," the participants contended.
STB general manager, Noredah Othman, who moderated the session, made a presentation on Sabah Tourism Update, followed by a briefing from the president of the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA), Datuk Tan Kok Dang who said it is imperative that the Government prioritise domestic travel to invigorate the whole economy through spin-off effects in the value chain.
"Together with the Government, MATTA, as a responsible non-governmental organisation (NGO), looks forward to creating a robust tourism industry for Sabah," he added.
Constructive input was also provided by the president of Sabah Association of Tour and Travel Agents (SATTA), Datuk Seri Winston Liaw, Chairman of MATTA, Sabah Chapter, Lawrence Chin, Acting Chairman of Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH), Sabah Chapter, Hafizan Wong, chairman of Malaysia Budget Hotel Association (MyBHA), Sabah Chapter, James Ong, deputy president of Sabah Hotel Association (SHA), Felix Joikon, chairman of Sabah Tourist Association (STA), Tonny Chew, president of Sandakan Tourist Association (STAN), C.K. Teo, and president of Kinabatangan - Corridor of Life Tourism Operators Association (KiTA), Alexander Yee.