KOTA KINABALU, Nov 9 — Federal Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture (Motac) Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing has urged the relevant authorities in Sabah to strengthen their safety guidelines to avoid more accidents involving tourists from happening again.
He said this after chairing a special meeting in Kuala Lumpur with representatives from Motac, Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment, Sabah Police, Sabah and Labuan Marine Department, Semporna District Office, Sabah Tourism Board and others, following several incidents involving tourists in the state.
The meeting aimed at finding a consensus among all parties involved, to collectively improve the safety aspects of local tourism and reduce the risk of similar accidents in the future.
“So far, more than 13 cases of accidents involving tourists have been reported in Sabah, including an overturned boat incident on Pulau Timba-Timba and a drowning incident involving foreign tourists in Kudat in July this year.
“As minister of Motac, I insist that this is an urgent issue that needs to be addressed in restoring the country’s tourism industry.
“It is very unfortunate that Sabah, as a popular tourist destination in Malaysia at the global level, is now beginning to tarnish its image due to the incidents that occurred throughout this year, which has even affected the national tourism industry,” he said in a statement on Thursday.
Tiong added it is important for all departments and stakeholders involved, including the tourism industry itself, to show commitment and address these issues immediately to restore tourist confidence.
“Among the main points discussed at the meeting are; to strengthen safety guidelines, to ensure boat operators have valid license to carry out activities related to water sports and to ensure that security monitoring is properly implemented.
“Meanwhile, law enforcement agencies should take stricter measures, including conducting continuous surprise inspections, to ensure that established security guidelines are fully complied with, as well as act strictly against any violation, thereby maximising the safety of tourists,” he added.
Tiong also said other matters discussed in the meeting include the need for scuba diving instructors to have a recognised and regularly updated license, ensuring the quality of instructors, the qualifications of scuba diving instructors must be exhibited and fully scrutinised before allowing them to carry out any activity as an additional screening, guaranteeing the quality of diving experience for tourists, and addressing hygiene issues in the accommodation environment.
“It is also emphasised in the meeting that the safety of tourists is our priority. Hence we need full cooperation from all stakeholders, including industry players, to ensure sustainable growth of the tourism sector and visitor safety.
“Operators or entrepreneurs must prioritise safety by providing training to their respective staff, insurance coverage and emergency plans. This is to ensure hygiene and quality standards are met, and emergencies can be managed more effectively,” he said.
He also urged the state government to monitor and improve the quality of local tourism, as a better experience will increase the confidence of tourists, as well as potentially attract tourists to return to visit the same destination, stimulate economic growth and create job opportunities.
“It is important for all parties to fulfil their joint responsibilities and prevent unwanted events or incidents from happening in the future, increase confidence in the Malaysian tourism industry and restore the industry’s reputations,” he said.
Tiong recently also expressed unhappiness poor cleanliness in Semporna and warned that a red notice would be issued if complaints by tourists were not resolved.
The minister said he had received complaints of rubbish left strewn in various parts of Semporna, leaving an unpleasant odour, as well as cases of food poisoning, pest infestation, and poor hospitality services. — Borneo Post