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Monday, July 17, 2017

Tours cancelled after protest

KOTA KINABALU - Foreign tour companies from China and Korea have cancelled their future Sabah tours because of the ‘unfounded’ protest staged by the Sabah Tourist Guides Association (STGA) and Sabah Native Registered Tourist Guide Association (PBBNS) at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) on July 15.

In revealing this here yesterday, Ministry of Tourism and Culture Malaysia (MOTAC) Sabah State Office director Ag Ahmad Zaki Abu Bakar confirmed that the associations had caused the ruckus because of a baseless claim that illegal tour guides from China were involved in the operation.

He said this had been done at the expense of not only the involved ‘terrified’ tourists and local tour operator but also STGA’s own ‘frightened’ licensed tourist guide.

Zaki further affirmed that MOTAC, in charge of tourism related licensing in Malaysia, will not hesitate to revoke immediately the licenses of all parties involved should the police deem the assembly as illegal.

“MOTAC condemns such action and attitude, especially from the least expected STGA and PBBNS for organizing an assembly at the airport, taking into consideration that they are the frontliners of the tourism industry.

“In response to this matter, an investigation was made with the alleged (local) tour company immediately today. We found that the company had conducted their business legally according to the Tourism Industry Act 1992. At that point of time, they had a licensed tourist guide and tour buses waiting at the airport to receive the tourists upon arrival,” he said yesterday.

“The allegation of STGA and PBBNS, accusing the tour company of not complying with the law is totally unfounded. It was also reported that their threats had caused the tour company’s appointed licensed guide to flee the airport before the arrival of his guests for fear of his life,” added Zaki.

The director said STGA and PBBNS’ ‘uncalled for’ conduct had painted an immediate and very negative image to arriving tourists from China and tarnished the image of ‘friendly Sabahans’.

“Their action had caused the tourists to be stranded for two hours at the airport during the wee hours upon their arrival. These tourists are also terrified for their safety. To make matters worse, we have received many complaints of their actions from many tour companies, local and international, especially China and Korea. These companies have also cancelled their future tours to Sabah because of this incident,” disclosed Zaki.

“Such behavior from the respective tourist guides association is unacceptable to our industry. The respective presidents should set a good example in leading their guides as there are many ways to solve any business complaints through proper channels. All conflicts should be solved in a civilized manner through dialogue and our office is always ready and open to welcome anyone who requires support and assistance,” he emphasized.

The director also stressed that MOTAC is willing to work and verify matter related to the dynamic tourism industry with all parties.

“We work very closely with Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry, Sabah Tourism Board and all related industry players for the sake of Sabahans, and we welcome any parties to seek clarification with us,” said Zaki.

“We view this matter seriously and have requested the police to launch an investigation to confirm whether such assembly is deemed illegal. If found guilty, we will not hesitate to revoke all their licenses with immediate effect.

“To our future tourists, please be assured that this is an isolated case. We wish to apologize to the group (affected) for the inconvenience caused by the irresponsible tourist guides’ behavior. We will surely take stern action. No one is above the law and taking matters into their own hands is a serious offence,” he asserted.

A group of Sabah tour guides staged a protest against the China tour guides at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport just after midnight on July 15. The protest led to three illegal tour guides fleeing the airport and leaving their big group of tourists stranded at the airport.

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