KOTA KINABALU: Sabah remains optimistic that it is just a matter of time before the United Kingdom lifts the travel advisory to its citizens against travel to the east coast of Sabah.
State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Christina Liew said Sabah welcomed the UK move to review and remove the advisory against travel to dive sites in the northern Kudat area.
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"It is the United Kingdom's first major change to its travel advice for Sabah since 2013.
"This augurs well for our call to lift the advisory against travel to the east coast of Sabah," she said in a statement on Friday (Dec 1).
"We hail the decision by the UK government to no longer advise against travel to islands and dive sites in the maritime area around Kudat.
"I am optimistic that... the UK government will lift the travel advisory against visiting the east coast of Sabah," she said in reaction to the Nov 29 announcement by British High Commissioner to Malaysia Ailsa Terry.
In a statement, Terry said the travel advisory change for Kudat was a testament to efforts by the Malaysian government to improve security in eastern Sabah.
However, the British government noted that the advisory against all but essential travel to islands and dive sites from Sandakan to Tawau, including Lankayan Island, remained in place.
Liew said the state government under Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor had explained that Sabah was a safe place to visit and to do business.
According to Liew, there were 20,532 visitor arrivals from the UK and Ireland from January to September this year.
The advisory for citizens from several western countries against travel to east coast Sabah was placed after the 2000 Sipadan Island kidnappings and subsequent incidents.
However, since 2020 there have been no reports of cross-border kidnappings by southern Philippines-based kidnap groups linked to Abu Sayyaf as most of its notorious members have been eliminated or have surrendered to Philippine authorities.