Be proactive, minister tells Sabah tour guides

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KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Masidi Manjun has urged tour guides not to be solely reliant on the government to survive in the tourism industry.

He said they should be proactive to remain competitive.

About 40 tour guides recently protested against allegedly illegal foreign guides at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport.

They believed the presence of “unlicensed” foreign tour guides poured sand into their rice bowl but the federal tourism authorities said no such guides were detected.

Their protest was reported to have caused dozens of Chinese tourists to be stranded at the arrival hall to the dismay of both the federal and state tourism ministries after their tour guides fled on seeing the protesters.

FMT recently reported that the Sabah Tourist Guides Association planned to compile a list of problems and needs of its members and forward it to the Sabah authorities.

Masidi felt that tour guides should constantly improve themselves by learning foreign languages so that tour operators had no reason to hire unlicensed foreign guides.

“It takes two to tango. It’s not only what you want but also what you’ve given to the industry.

“The government helps you, but you have to help yourself too,” Masidi said at a press conference during a Hari Raya gathering he hosted here today.

“A few years ago, the ministry agreed to fund a course for tour guides to learn Korean but it proved unpopular. There were not many takers.

“You cannot be complaining but at the same time not improving yourself. The tour guides should ask themselves whether they have done enough to make themselves competitive.

“They should make sure that they’ve done their best to ensure the current system works. For it to work, everyone, not just the government, has to play their role.”

The Sabah office of the federal tourism and culture ministry recently told FMT a committee would be formed to review the current tour guides system.

“It will be chaired by the permanent secretary of the Sabah ministry to improve the tour guides system,” Masidi said.

“We are looking at the protest positively. The committee will look into the guiding by the tour guides and the role of the tour agents so that we can improve the mechanisms that benefit everyone in the industry.

“It’s a matter under the federal ministry, but I don’t mind sitting down with them and looking into the suggestions and inputs made by the guides.

“Our job is not just to enforce the law but also to help the industry grow. To do this, we need inputs from all people related to the industry.

“We’ll look into the entire guiding system and fees. Our ministry will also give our own views to the federal licensing authority.”

Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s Sabah director Sazali Salbi had said they will look into the protest and determine if there is any wrongdoing by tourism-related agencies and those in the private sector. Masidi welcomed this.

“It’s very good that they’ve taken interest in the industry. To me, it’s simple. Anything that will improve the tourism industry is most welcome,” he said.