KOTA KINABALU: Tourism in the biodiversity rich Kinabatangan area should be able to restart soon, if operators under the Corridor of Life Tourism Operator Association (Kita) are able to overcome challenges including fears among the public.
Kita president Alexander Yee said though they are ready to reopen for business, especially in the lower Kinabatangan area, the biggest challenge they needed to overcome was to counter fears felt by the public on travelling.
"There is a lack of confidence to travel and there is also a lack of disposable income during this pandemic," he said.
According to Yee, interest in environment and wildlife-based products and services is not there among locals.
"Tourism activities in Kinabatangan include jungle trekking and boat cruises for wildlife watching and our customer base is mainly European tourists with 4-5% domestic visitors from peninsular Malaysia," Yee said.
He said the Kinabatangan area is able to generate up to RM100mil annually in tourism revenue and it was important that borders are reopened carefully and selectively as domestic tourism will not be able to sustain the tourism capacity.
Kita feels it is important to first generate interest among customers to get the economic ball rolling.
"It is vital that Kinabatangan leads the revival of tourism activities in the east coast of Sabah as tourists coming to Kinabatangan often enter via Sandakan and visit the surrounding areas such as Sepilok, Tabin and Danum Valley," Yee said.
"The estimated value of these tourism activities is said to be RM140mil to RM180mil yearly," he added.
Kita has set aside RM 200,000 to kick start their tourism campaign which includes the setting up of strict hygiene standard operating procedures (SOP) for member lodges and implementing these by mid-June.
Upon implementing these SOPs, members will be able to use the "Safe. Trustworthy. Responsible" branding.
Yee said Kita will also be hosting some 200 frontliners in August as a form of appreciation for their sacrifices and also to self-generate tourism activities.
"We will be launching a new promotional video to show the new norm in Kinabatangan," he said.
He hoped to meet Sabah's Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Christina Liew sometime next week to brief her on these matters and get some funds to kick start tourism activities in Kinabatangan and other parts of Sabah.
Yee said with the government trying to encourage domestic tourism, it is vital that they realise it is a very short term method of reviving the tourism sector and money needed to be spent on promotional activities.
"We need to overcome our fears and start moving," he said.
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