KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Association of Tour and Travel Agents (SATTA) urged the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry (MOTAC) to include China, Taiwan, Macau and Hong Kong for the creation of travel bubble arrangements with neighbouring countries during the Covid-19 situation.
SATTA Chairman Dato’ Seri Winston Liaw said the countries he mentioned had contributed significantly to the international tourists’ arrivals to Sabah last 10 years.
“The Chinese alone comprised more than 40 per cent of Sabah international arrivals and they had helped our state’s economy a lot,” said Liaw in welcoming the MOTAC proposed arrangements.
But he was bewildered that Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri in her discussions with the Health, Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs Ministries had left out the East Asia destinations.
Nancy said among the identified countries were Brunei, Singapore and Thailand as well as the Asia-Pacific countries such as Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand as these places were identified as safe by the World Health Organisation.
Liaw also lamented the government did not come forward to help the tourism industry players suffering from zero income until now since the pandemic unfolded and they will also be the last to recover when the Covid-19 is contained.
“Other sectors such as construction and factory recorded alarming positive Covid infection cases and yet they are allowed to open and continue their businesses, but why not tourism Industry?” he asked.
Liaw warned if the international borders still continue to close, many industry players such as the hoteliers, tour companies, transport companies and others will be dead soon.
“When the vaccines are available in near future and when the tourism industry rebounded, we will unable to accommodate the influx of tourists. We need to work double efforts to see the economy recover,” Liaw said.
He called on the Sabah Government to take steps to create the travel bubble with China and South Korea, two of the state biggest contributors to the tourism industry.
SATTA also urged the government to talk to Bank Negara Malaysia to give collateral free term loan at low interest rates to the tourism industry players in order to help them to survive and keep afloat during the pandemic period.-HS