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Warisan slams Sabah tourism ministry for threatening protesters

 | July 17, 2017

Local tour guide laments his income has dropped by half since illegal tour guides started operating.

Junz-WongPETALING JAYA: Parti Warisan Sabah (Warisan) has hit out at the Sabah tourism and culture ministry for threatening tour guides who staged a protest against illegal tour guides at Sabah’s main airport.

Speaking to FMT, Warisan vice-president Junz Wong said the ministry’s statement showed its lack of concern over the plight of local tourist guides who claim their livelihood has been badly affected by illegal tour guides from China.

On Sunday, tour guides from two associations staged a protest at the airport at 12.30am after a tour group from China landed at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport.

It was reported that the protesters confronted the tourists and questioned the legitimacy of their guide and warned them of the consequences.

It is understood that the tour group’s guide, who was there to greet the tourists fled, leaving the tourists stranded at the airport for two hours.

Yesterday, Sabah tourism and culture ministry director Ag Ahmad Zaki Abu Bakar hit out at the protesters for terrifying the tourists from China and threatened to revoke their licences if they were found to have assembled illegally.

Ag Ahmad also said the tour company that was the target of the protest had conducted its business legally according to the Tourism Industry Act 1992.

Wong hit out at Ag Ahmad, saying the official clearly didn’t understand the issue and the interests of law-abiding Sabahans.

“Ag Ahmad’s threat reflects the government’s high-handedness and penchant for resorting to intimidation tactics rather than actually getting to the root of the issue.

“Why would the tour associations protest if there is no basis for them to do so? Why waste valuable time and effort, and risk the action of the authorities by protesting?

“Also, if the tour guide for the Chinese group that arrived at the airport during the protest was legal, why did he flee?

“If he felt threatened, the most logical thing to do would be to seek the help of the authorities at the airport. But why didn’t he? Ag Ahmad should think before he speaks.”

Wong also questioned whether the ministry had even looked into the matter of the illegal tour guides from China or spoken to the industry players.

He called on the ministry to hold a dialogue with tour guides and associations before condemning them.

“The ministry shouldn’t simply resort to threats without looking at the concerns of the locals. This shows a lack of political will on the part of the Sabah government to protect Sabahans.”

Recently, Wong had highlighted the proliferation of unlicensed tour guides from China who he said are threatening the livelihood of about 600 legitimate Sabahan guides.

Wong added that foreigners can only obtain a temporary tour guide licence in Sabah and even then only if they are employed on a full-time basis by a licensed tour company operating in Malaysia.

‘Income badly affected’

A tour guide from Sabah, who only wanted to be known as Nick, said the presence of illegal tour guides from China had badly affected his livelihood.

“Licensed tour guides like myself have invested a lot of money to obtain our qualifications and learn about the industry but these illegal guides just come in and work freely.”

Nick said these illegal guides can only work here because licensed tour companies are taking them in as “stick-in guides”.

“Stick-in guides without licences are illegal and foreigners cannot obtain tour guide licences.

“There are companies which use Korean stick-in guides because not many locals speak Korean. In this case, we can understand the reasoning.

“But we have enough Sabahans who can converse fluently in Mandarin and Cantonese. So, there is really no need for any tour guides from China.”

Nick said before the illegal tour guides from China came to Sabah, on average, he would handle about three to four tour groups a month and earn around RM6,000, including tips.

But nowadays, Nick said he was lucky to even handle two tour groups a month and has seen his income dwindle to less than RM3,000 because of the proliferation of illegal tour guides.

He hoped the government would take the necessary action and stop the tour guides from China from operating in the state.

According to a report by The Star Online, the Sabah Tourism Board expects some 33,000 arrivals from China a month this year.

 

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