Sabah Tourism Board engages with countries that issued travel warnings to east coast

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Tourism Board (STB) has proactively engaged with countries that have issued travel advisories against visiting Sabah’s east coast.

In a travel advisory issued by the United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, it advises against “all but essential travel to all islands and dive sites off the coast of eastern Sabah from Sandakan to Tawau, including Lankayan Island, due to kidnapping threats.”

This advice, however, does not apply to Sabah’s mainland.

In an engagement held in Kuala Lumpur on Monday (May 20), STB chairman Datuk Joniston Bangkuai said the diplomats were given a briefing by a senior officer from the Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCOM) on the various measures taken to enhance security on the east coast.

He added the programme was organised to update the embassies on the enhanced security measures on Sabah's east coast, to get the unfavourable advisory revised.

The engagement was attended by European Union deputy head of delegation Timo Goosman, France Ambassador Axel Cruau, Italy Ambassador Massimo Rustico, Finland Ambassador Sami Leino, Norway Ambassador Morten Paulsen and representatives from the Australian, United States, and German embassies.

Joniston added that Sabah recorded 8,359 travellers from Europe and the United Kingdom and 936 from Oceania to the east coast during the first four months of this year.

"This indicates a growing confidence among visitors on security and safety in the east coast," he said in a statement on Tuesday (May 21).

Commending the STB for initiating the engagement, Goosman said the information relayed to them was essential for EU member countries when deciding to review the advisory issued.

French Ambassador Cruau believed that with heightened security measures, more French nationals would visit the many attractions on Sabah’s east coast.

STB chief executive officer Julinus Jimit said European arrivals are important to Sabah, and the board will continue carrying out promotional efforts in Europe.

He said Europe showed a robust recovery of 105% from the pre-pandemic level with 18,196 visitors, a 35.8% increase during the first three months of this year.

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