Private stakeholders’ views vital for recovery of Sabah tourism: Joniston

Assistant Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Joniston Bangkuai (left) with participants at the Engagement Session With Tourism Players For 2022 organised by Sabah Tourism Board in Kota Kinabalu, on Monday. - Photo courtesy of Sabah Tourism Board.

KOTA KINABALU: The ideas and proposals of private stakeholders are critical in revitalising Sabah's tourism industry, says state Tourism, Culture, and Environment Assistant Minister Datuk Joniston Bangkuai.

Joniston said the state government is open to proposals and will evaluate them to ensure greater success in the industry.

“We need to understand each other. There are numerous requests, but the government has limitations as well. What matters is that we come to a consensus.

“If there’s a need for a recommendation to the Federal Government for the tourism industry in Sabah, let us do it together,” he said at the Engagement Session With Tourism Players For 2022 here on Monday (Dec 13).

Joniston, who is also chairman of the Sabah Tourism Board (STB), said the recent decision to lift the mandatory swab test on fully vaccinated visitors to Sabah was an example of a good understanding between industry players and the state government.

AirAsia, Malaysia Airlines and the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) made the proposal last month and it was duly brought to the attention of Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor, he added.

“The Chief Minister thought it was a good idea and discussed it with the State Secretary. When the industry players make recommendations, we present them to the state government with justification and reasoning.

“This is an example of how we can try to better understand and collaborate on each other’s needs. We hope that through this engagement session, we can come together (on a) strategy to bring tourism back into the mainstream while instilling responsible practices in the industry,” Joniston said.

The objective of the engagement session is based on four pillars: building consumer confidence; supporting the industry; rebuilding connectivity; and enhancing potential segments.

These pillars are a guideline for the recovery of Sabah tourism and unanimously agreed upon at a Tourism Recovery Committee meeting held by STB with key industry players in August.

“The formulation of this roadmap was done in parallel with the concept set out by the government: Recovery, Revitalise, and Reform.

“It is our desire that, through this engagement, we could identify impactful initiatives and prioritise those that can add the most value to our tourism industry, especially how to pivot back in the new normal.

“Therefore, I urge industry players to be open in contributing ideas, recommendations, or suggestions so that we can all have a fruitful and beneficial outcome,” said Joniston.

He also encouraged tourism industry players to continue coming up with new ideas revolving around digital innovation and collaboration.

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