KOTA KINABALU: Tourism Malaysia chairman Ahmad Shah Hussein Tambakau says tourist arrivals in Sabah have not been hit despite the recent unfavourable travel advisory by the United States.
However, Shah said Malaysia still wanted the US to remove it from the “K” list as this could influence the perceptions of other nations on the security situation in Sabah.
US had placed Malaysia on the “K” list in a travel advisory issued by the State Department on April 9 over concerns about kidnappings in certain parts of the country.
Speaking to reporters after a dialogue session with Sabah tourism industry players here today, Shah said the number of US visitors to Malaysia had actually increased while the overall tourist arrivals in Sabah have also risen.
“The US travel advisory does not really affect our tourist arrivals here but it’s a thorn in our flesh … it’s been nagging us.
“We would very much like to get off the list because Sabah and the federal government are doing their best to make sure the security in the east coast of the state is tight,” he said.
Last week, Wisma Putra summoned US ambassador to Malaysia Kamala Shirin Lakhdir to protest against the decision to include Malaysia on the “K” list.
Sabah Chief Minister Shafie Apdal has also given an assurance that the east coast is safe. He urged the US to remove Malaysia from the list.
Tourism players have also criticised the US authorities, urging them to lift the travel advisory.
Sabah registered over 3.8 million visitors, including more than 1.3 million foreigners, last year. This compares to 3.6 million tourists, including 1.2 million international guests, in 2017.
Meanwhile, Tourism Malaysia has engaged Malaysian celebrity Alif Satar as well as several media representatives and bloggers to help promote the Sabah east coast as part of its Visit Malaysia 2020 campaign.
The participants will explore exciting tourist attractions and savour the local culture and delicacies in Lahad Datu, Semporna and Tawau.
The programme, which will run from April 25-28, is one of Tourism Malaysia’s efforts to strengthen the domestic tourism industry.
Alif is a singer, actor and social media influencer, He has 2.1 million followers on Instagram.