KOTA KINABALU, July 18 — The protest here last weekend which left several tourists stranded at the airport was an act of short-sightedness that did more harm than good to Sabah’s sensitive tourism industry, Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun said.
The state minister said that any act that could be deemed as unfriendly to tourists will have wider repercussions on the tourism industry as a whole.
“The way they went about it, I think is wrong — that’s not the way Sabahans solve problems. Indirectly, they have damaged the industry. The industry is very sensitive, look at incidents like the kidnappings, the earthquake, and the missing MH370 have all had an effect on us.
“If u think highlighting the problem to the public to make it known is the way, it is making people see us as unfriendly. We are trying to compete with the likes of Thailand, Philippines and Vietnam, and yet here we are, damaging the industry that we are benefitting from,” he said.
Masidi said that in an industry as competitive and sensitive as the tourism industry, any action could tilt the favour and Sabah cannot afford to make mistakes.
“While I understand the frustrations of the tour guides, the matter should be settled properly in a way that reflects the manner of the friendly culture of our state. We are known to be cultured, harmonious and friendly,” he said.
Last Saturday just past midnight, a group of local tourist guides under the Sabah Tourist Guides Association and Sabah Native Registered Tourist Guide Association staged a protest at the Kota Kinabalu International airport against the presence of “illegal” tour guides that had been leading Chinese-speaking groups.
It was later reported that their threats had caused the tour company’s appointed licensed guide to flee the airport before the arrival of his guests, leaving a group of Chinese tourists stranded for two hours.
Masidi said that he and the authorities were aware of the problem but like every other industry, some problems are difficult to stamp out totally.
“But we don’t want a few incident to spoil the industry. We will be killing the industry that’s giving us work. If the tourists stop coming because of this, then nobody will have jobs,” he said.
Masidi said it will take time to fine-tune and improve the system of licensed tour guides, and everyone in the industry — the government, agencies and the guides — will have to work together to “clean out” the system and ensure Sabahans continue to benefit from the lucrative tourism industry.