US travel advisory on Sabah has not affected tourist arrivals, says Tourism Malaysia chairman

Julia Chan
Picture shows the popular Sapi island which is not only popular for snorkelling, sun bathing, watersports and diving, but visitors can also take a zipline from one island to the next. ― Picture courtesy of Sabah Tourism Board

KOTA KINABALU, April 24 ― Tourism Malaysia Chairman Ahmad Shah Hussein Tambakau today said the inclusion of Sabah’s east coast in the US “K” list travel advisory for potential kidnappings, has failed to deter tourists from visiting the state.

He said statistics show tourist arrivals have in fact increased across the board, including from the US.

“The number of US visitors to Malaysia actually increased while the overall tourist arrivals in Sabah have also risen,” he said during a Tourism Malaysia dialogue with Sabah tourism industry players here.

“The advisory has not really affected our tourist arrivals but it’s a thorn in our flesh, it’s been nagging us,” he said, adding that the advisory could create misconceptions from other countries about Sabah.

“Of course we would very much like to get off the list .because as you know the Sabah and federal governments are doing their best to make sure the security on the east coast is tight,” he said.

Tourism players here have complained about the advisory, claiming that it was not reflective of the current security in the region.

Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) president Datuk Tan Kok Liang said there have not been any new incidence of kidnappings involving tourists in Sabah in recent years.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal, who is also Semporna MP, has also urged authorities to remove the warning, saying that the east coast was safe with its constant border control.

In support of the state, the Foreign Ministry had summoned US ambassador to Malaysia Kamala Shirin Lakhdir to protest against the decision to include Malaysia on the “K” list.

Last year Sabah registered its highest tourism numbers yet with over 3.879 million visitors including more than 1.3 million foreign visitors last year compared to about 3.6 million tourists the year before, of which 1.2 million were international arrivals.

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