KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Masidi Manjun has pointed out there is no written rule that says tudung- wearing women are banned from working at frontline positions in international hotels.
Masidi, when winding up the debate for his ministry at the state assembly sitting, also noted that the wearing of the headscarf was not included in the standard operating procedures (SOP) for the hotel uniform.
“It is not within the SOP of the uniform. So, as far as we are concerned, the wearing of tudung by women staff in international hotels is up to the discretion of the management. They can say ‘yes’ or ‘no’.”
The issue came to a boil more than a week ago following complaints from hotel employees regarding the banning of headscarves or hijab at their workplace.
The Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) had defended its members’ policy of prohibiting their frontline staff from wearing the headscarf, saying it is international practice and not meant to be discriminatory.
However, the statement did not go down well with the public, including politicians, who branded the ban as discriminatory against Muslim women who wear headscarves.
On another note, Masidi told the house that the tourism industry in the state collected RM6.396 billion in tourism receipts up to October this year.
“The federal government is estimated to earn a direct income of RM741.15 million through corporate income tax, personal income tax, goods and services tax (GST) and licence fees.
“A total of RM2.915 billion (45.5%) is injected directly into the local economy while the rest is profit for companies (25%) and overseas payment (20%),” he said.
Masidi noted that although the tourism industry does not give a direct return to the state government, the sector is important because of its huge impact on the state through the economic spillover to the local community and the creation of job opportunities in the service fields.
Furthermore, he said Sabah is now ready to compete with neighbouring countries in the medical tourism sector following the completion of medical centres such as the Gleneagles, KPJ Sabah and KPJ Damai Specialist Hospital and the Jesselton Medical Centre.
“The Sabah Tourism Board is collaborating with the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC), which is an initiative under the health ministry, to facilitate the strategic development of the Healcare Travel industry in Malaysia to enhance the country’s profile as a recognised global healthcare provider.”
Due to its strategic geographic location, Masidi said medical tourism in Sabah will be targeting tourists and investors from neighbouring Indonesia.
So far, the Sabah Tourism Board has already established relationships with several agents in Indonesia who specialise in medical tourism.
He added that the air routes between Indonesia and Sabah, connecting Tarakan directly to Tawau, allowed the medical centres to receive customers from Tarakan .
“This number is expected to increase from time to time.
“To boost this field, my ministry is negotiating with several airlines to start direct flights from Balikpapan in Kalimantan to Kota Kinabalu and from Pontianak to Kota Kinabalu.”