Fast-tracking Covid-19 jabs for Sabah tourism players crucial for industry recovery, says assistant minister

STB chairman Datuk Joniston Bangkuai, who is also assistant tourism, culture and environment minister, said that the number of vaccinated tourism workers and frontliners was still very low and could hamper the eventual safe reopening of Sabah’s tourism industry. ― Picture by Hari Anggara
STB chairman Datuk Joniston Bangkuai, who is also assistant tourism, culture and environment minister, said that the number of vaccinated tourism workers and frontliners was still very low and could hamper the eventual safe reopening of Sabah’s tourism industry. ― Picture by Hari Anggara

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KOTA KINABALU, July 27 — The Sabah Tourism Board (STB) will discuss with the Tourism Ministry office here how to fast-track Covid-19 vaccinations for tourism workers in the state to enable the reopening of the state’s tourism industry as soon as possible.

STB chairman Datuk Joniston Bangkuai, who is also assistant tourism, culture and environment minister, said that the number of vaccinated tourism workers and frontliners was still very low and could hamper the eventual safe reopening of Sabah’s tourism industry.

“Vaccinations for tourism should include, among others, hotel staff, tour operators, boatmen, rural tourism workers, rafting guides, tour bus drivers and divers.

“Once tourism workers are vaccinated, it will enhance interstate travel,” said Bangkuai when chairing the Board’s Tourism Committee meeting conducted virtually yesterday.

He said that plans were in the works to reopen the flagging tourism industry safely, including introducing an independent Green Tourism certification and a Covid-19 insurance policy to boost visitors’ confidence.

He said the State Tourism Recovery Committee, which comprises industry captains, would be meeting next week to deliberate and revisit the Tourism Recovery Road Map drawn up after the committee’s first meeting late last year.

“Once the pandemic is under control, STB will embark on more aggressive marketing and promotions to tap into the business and leisure travel segment,” he added.

Bangkuai also called on the Tourism Ministry to include Kota Kinabalu as one of the travel bubble pilot projects, which currently includes Kuching, Langkawi, Pangkor Island and Fraser’s Hill.

The tourism industry is among Sabah’s biggest income earners, and in 2018 and 2019, hit its highest tourism receipts ever at RM8.342 billion, and RM12 million in tourism tax revenue.

Previously, the Malaysian Association of Tour & Travel Agents (Matta) has asked for Covid-19 vaccinations to be expedited for frontliners of the Sabah tourism industry.

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