Saturday March 9, 2013
Status quo for time being
By YU JI
KUCHING: Although there has not been a mass exodus of tourists out of Sabah, it does seem that those about to enter the state from Sarawak are now thinking twice.
“I met a couple of French tourists who were planning to be in Sarawak and Sabah for a total of 15 days. They had planned to stay half their time in Sarawak then go to Sabah. Now, they’ve cancelled the Sabah portion of their trip and have extended their stay here,” Sarawak Tourism Federation president Audry Wan Ullok said.
But she said Sarawak would not necessarily receive more tourists due to the current situation in the east coast.
“Maybe just some are not so keen to visit Sabah for the time being,” said the twice elected federation chief, who represents the state’s tourism private sector.
On Thursday, countries including Taiwan and Australia, issued revised travel advisories for their citizens going to Sabah. The Taipei Times reported that its Foreign Ministry issued the warning to stay away from popular scuba-diving areas like Sipadan, near Lahad Datu.
“To ensure the safety of Taiwanese tourists travelling abroad, the ministry raised the travel warning for Sabah to ‘yellow’ while maintaining a ‘grey’ travel advisory for other areas in the country.
“A ‘yellow’ travel warning is a reminder for people to pay special attention to personal safety when travelling to affected areas or to reconsider any plans to travel to these areas,” the paper added.
Meanwhile, the Australian government’s travel warning issued this week also included territories in southern Philippines like Mindanao.
Sarawak Inbound Agents chairman Adam Lim said foreigners, who had purchased holiday packages to Sabah, were generally on a “wait-and-see” basis. He told The Star that he had not received cancellations for packages involving Sabah.
“I have a feeling they want to know how the situation plays out before deciding. But if you ask me if we’ve received more (in Sarawak), the answer is no,” Lim said.
The Sabah Tourism Board in a statement yesterday said it was business “as usual” in most parts of the state, widely considered by many to be the best tourism site in the country.
“The board wishes to assure our visitors and partners worldwide that the tourism industry, hotels, island resorts, river, jungle and mountain lodges and activities throughout Sabah, including the east coast, are operating as usual.
“The National Security Council confirmed there is no prohibition to visit the resort islands. All activities continue as usual. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak himself flew in to inspect security operations in the areas to ensure the safety and security of Sabah,” a statement by board director Datuk Irene Benggon Charuruks said.