KOTA KINABALU, Oct 28 — Former national shuttler Datuk Lee Chong Wei was chosen to be Sabah’s tourism ambassador as he was popular in China that was one of the state’s biggest target markets prior to the pandemic, said Noredah Othman.
The Sabah Tourism Board chief executive officer said Lee, a former world number one badminton player, was also not the first athlete to be appointed as an ambassador.
“We believe Datuk Lee Chong Wei’s position as a respected social and global influencer will help create curiosity as well as interest about the many attractions in Sabah among his followers, especially from China,” she said in a statement here today.
She also said that Lee’s appointment came with no special fee aside for costs incurred for logistical arrangements when he visits places of interest for promotional purposes.
“We are thankful and fortunate that the former World No. 1 badminton player has kindly agreed to be our tourism ambassador and for us to ride on his global popularity to lure more visitors into Sabah.
“The Sabah Tourism Board looks forward to collaborate with Datuk Wira Lee Chong Wei to experience Sabah destinations, lifestyle, and culture as a non-local domestic visitor,” she said.
She drew similarities between Lee and when the Sabah Tourism, Culture, and Environment Ministry previously appointed Sabah-born Malaysian professional golfer Ben Leong as its golfing ambassador, which was in line with its promotion of the state as a golfing destination at the time.
The ministry also previously engaged renowned Taiwan-based singer and Kota Belud-born artiste Gary Chaw as its tourism ambassador for his Chinese following.
Noredah’s statement came after Sabahans criticised Lee’s appointment, with some questioning why the former badminton ace born in Perak and often associated with Penang was chosen to represent Sabah.
Some said that the role should have been given to a Sabahan personality or at least someone familiar with the state and who could adequately represent it.
Noredah said the STB acknowledged such views.
“We, at Sabah Tourism Board, appreciate our local talents and have always been engaging with local influencers to help in promoting Sabah tourism domestically as well as internationally.
“China is Sabah’s top market source, Sabah Tourism Board maintains its promotional efforts to continue to attract Chinese tourists to visit the state, especially post-pandemic,” she said.