Sabah needs own action plan to tackle Covid-19

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah needs to come up with a specific action plan to be adopted by the various stakeholders as the impact of Covid-19 that we experience is different to other states in Malaysia.

The action plan should be studied by the various stakeholders together with the frontliners such as hotels, tour operators and airlines as they are the key frontline in the promotion of domestic tourism and other stimulus packages, associate and in collaboration with SmithsGore Sabah, Christopher Chan proposed in the wake of Covid-19 outbreak.

“The action plan must have a win-win situation among all tourism stakeholders in the final papers and no conflict of interest on any side,” Chan said.

On the measure taken to temporary exempt the service tax from March to August 2020, he believes this will help the hotel and restaurant to generate enough income to sustain their business turnover.

The 15 per discount for monthly electricity bills for hotels, tour agencies, airlines, shopping malls, convention and exhibition centres will definitely assist the industry at a slowdown of the economy, he commended.

For future benefits among the parties concerned, he said mutual understanding is vital to resolve the issue of refunding deposits for bookings made by tour operators with the hotels and airlines.

The Covid-19 which has now declared a pandemic by the WHO will further hit Sabah tourism industry as the government has now banned tourists from Italy and Iran from coming, he said.

He said the world tourism industry is feeling the adverse effect from the Covid-19 outbreak beginning from China and now spread to other countries.

He commended the Sabah Government swift efforts in banning all chartered and schedule flights from China and South Korea immediately to contain the spread of the virus in Sabah.

Besides that, he said the action taken by the federal government to ban all cruise ships from landing to Malaysian ports after the outbreak was detected inside Diamond Princes cruise ship in Japan has taken away another key market segment for Sabah.  

The response by the government to contain Covid-19 has directly impacted not only the cancellations of hotel rooms, tour packages and airlines but also saw the tourist guides, bus drivers, seafood restaurants and souvenir shops suffers an instant drop in business whilst some have already closed down, he said.

He cited hotels in Semporna and tour operators are now badly hit with only 10 per cent room occupancy whilst boat and dive operators are slashing their prices.

There is no short-term remedy to cure the virus at the moment and it will take some time for the market to recover, he said.

He also hopes the stimulus package announced by the then interim prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad by end of February 2020 will be adopted by the newly formed Perikatan Nasional government.-HS

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