Attack another dent on tourism in Sabah, says MATTA

PETALING JAYA - The recent attack on Mabul island is driving another nail into Sabah's diving sector, as well as the state tourism industry's progress, says the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents.

In a statement yesterday, MATTA vice-president K.L. Tan said Sabah tourism continued to suffer adverse impacts since the MH370 saga in March. This, along with the kidnappings over the past few months, had put a dent on the state's tourism, he said.

"Sabah is the leading dive sector for Malaysia, and attracts some 63,000 divers annually to Sipadan and the nearby islands.

"This alone contributed to about 6 per cent of the total tourism contribution," Tan said, adding that leisure and recreational businesses on the west coast and other locations in Sabah were not affected.

On the declining numbers of Chinese tourists to Sabah, Tan hoped that their negative sentiments towards Malaysia would end soon.

"Give them time to heal and allow their emotions and anger to subside. We hope the sector will recover by early October," Tan said, adding that Chinese tourists made up 40 per cent of the estimated 3.5 million tourists to Sabah.

He also urged stakeholders not to be unduly distracted by current security issues, but instead, to tweak current marketing strategies to boost tourist arrivals.

"We need to focus on things like cheaper airfares, which entice Malaysians to travel to regional destinations other than Sabah."

"MATTA has proposed some changes to the Tourism Industry Act 1992 and policies on licensing, tourist guides and enforcement," Tan said, adding that progress was slow in the area.