PETALING JAYA - The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) has voiced concerns that tourism would be affected by the shocking shooting and abduction of Taiwanese tourists in Sabah.
MATTA deputy president Jeffri Sulaiman said the incident was a blow to the industry, especially since the Lahad Datu incursion earlier this year.
“Sabah is one of the states that draws the biggest income in the tourism industry,” he told The Star. “In addition, travel agencies have been gearing up for Visit Malaysia Year (VMY) 2014.”
Jeffri added that he hoped Chang An Wei, 58, the missing wife of deceased victim Hsu Lin Min, 57, would be found soon.
Tourism and Culture Ministry corporate communications head Dr Amerjit Singh said he was shocked and saddened by the incident.
He expressed his condolences to the victims’ next of kin, adding that the ministry was maintaining constant communication lines with the police in Sabah.
“They are doing a detailed investigation. Let them complete it first,” he said.
The Government set up the Eastern Sabah Security Command on April 1 following the invasion by Sulu gunmen into Lahad Datu and Semporna districts, which resulted in the deaths of 10 Malaysian security personnel.
The agency is tasked with safeguarding security in waters off 10 coastal districts placed under the Eastern Sabah Security Zone.
The United States has issued travel advisories in the past, warning its citizens to exercise caution when travelling to the Sabah’s east coast.
The US state department said there had been several abductions and incidents of piracy in the area since 2000, adding that the Abu Sayyaf group based in the Philippines was responsible for some of them.
Meanwhile, it was reported in Sinchew Daily that the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Malaysia might change its travel advisory against Sabah from “grey” to the “yellow” alert. “Yellow” is the second stage warning.
Earlier, when contacted, the office said it was keeping close tabs on the events unfolding in Sabah following the shooting of the tourist.
Its information division first secretary Minford Yu said they learnt of the incident from The Star’s reports.
“We contacted the police as well as the Foreign Affairs Ministry,” he said. “We have confirmed that the victims are two Taiwanese people.”