Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Arrivals surpass target as Sabah tourism on right track, says CM


Sabah tourism sector is on the right track towards stronger growth as the Government’s commitment to position the State in the international tourism map is being matched by the industry players’ proactive efforts. Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman said the Government’s efforts to boost the industry by allocating huge funds for improving supporting infrastructures such as the expansion of the Kota Kinabalu International Airport are matched by the private sector through the investment in new and innovative products. Musa, who said this when officiating at the opening of 90 additional luxurious rooms at Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort in Tuaran yesterday, urged tourism operators in the State to continue developing and introducing new marketable products to attract more foreign tourists. He said one way to do this is by further incorporating local traditions and customs, especially those which are rare, into tourism products. “New areas in tourism need to be explored. For example by offering special packages to foreign tourists which intimately introduce them to the unique culture of the local people or by opening special outlets dedicated to provides guests with traditional food,” he said. He said the richly diversified culture of the local people in Sabah offers a lot of unexplored opportunities for further expanding the tourism sector and urged tourism players to creatively create new and innovative products to make Sabah a more competitive international destinations. At the same time, the industry must keep abreast with the current global trend and anticipate the future while maintaining the best quality in their services, he added. For a sustainable growth, it is important that locals are trained with new skills such as foreign languages to enable them to play important and meaningful parts in the development of the industry. Musa said Sabah has been enjoying tremendous growth in the tourism industry with hoteliers recording more than encouraging occupancy rates, especially during peak seasons such as school holidays where it is almost impossible to get rooms. He noted that for the first half of last year, the average occupancy rate for three to five star hotels in Sabah were more than 72 percent, way above the national occupancy rate of 62 percent. While the figure indicates Sabah increasing popularity as tourist destination, it also shows that the State is facing shortage of hotel rooms, he said. To meet the rising demand Sabah has created additional 402 rooms during the same period last year to cater for increasing number of both domestic and international tourists coming to Sabah. The private sector is investing in building more hotels, especially in Kota Kinabalu which is the gateway to Sabah’s wonders. New hotels are also coming up in other parts of the State, including in Sandakan, Tawau and Semporna, he said. A total of 2.47 million tourists visited Sabah last year, surpassing the 2.3 million target set by the State. The figure is an increase of 18.5 per cent compared to the 2.0 million tourists arrivals in 2006. The tourist arrivals to Malaysia is projected to reach over 24 million by 2010 and create more than 520 jobs with generated receipts of more than RM59 billion. Meanwhile, a separate event later yesterday saw the launch of a newly completed RM1O million CHI, The Spa at Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort. CHI, The Spa which started operation since Dec 28 offers luxurious spa treatment with emphasizes on privacy and use of traditional herbs and medicine. It draws inspiration from the origin of the Shangri-La’s legend, high in the mystical Himalayan mountains, offering a range of therapies based on the ancient healing traditions, philosophies and rituals of China and Himalayas. CHI, The Spa in Tanjung Aru is the latest addition to the ShangriLa’s existing 12 spas throughout its chain hotels and resorts worldwide carrying the CHI concept. The spa in Tanjung Aru offers exclusive therapies that celebrate local culture and healing traditions including for example indigenous ingredients from Borneo volcanic mud to Sabah pearls and cocoa. The spa also incorporated some local products which are inspired by the Bobohizan practices such as nutmegs, red ginger, and betel leaf believed to remove negative energy. The launching was officiated by Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun.


SAPP assures Liew of support in Merotai


Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) President Datuk Seri Panglima Yong Teck Lee has assured that his party will support and assist Datuk Liew Yun Fah in retaining the Merotai seat during the impending general election. Yong said if Barisan National (BN) renominates Liew as its Merotai candidate, it will not be a problem for SAPP to assist Liew, as the party has a division in the constituency. He was commenting on the statement by Kalabakan Umno chief Datuk Seri Panglima Abdul Ghapur Salleh that Merotai should be returned to Umno, “SAPP understands that Liew is carrying out his duties very well in Merotai and he has a good performance record in serving the residents there after he was appointed as a minister. Hence, I hope Umno Kalabakan would not forget Liew’s services,” he said. “I feel that the ways used by Ghapur to regain Merotai for Umno are not proper; his harsh words in directly criticizing the BN assemblyman. Besides, Ghapur should not hang up the banner at a public place which states Umno wants Merotai back, especially during the Chinese New Year celebration,” Yong said. According to him, there is no need to hang up the banner, but he was not surprised by Ghapur’s action because the latter will argue and fight to gain seats especially during every election. “Our party understands the feelings of Liew in facing the treatment,” he said.


Merotai to stay with LDP: Liew


N58 Merotai seat will remain with Liberal Democratic Party. This is at least what its President Datuk V K Liew said yesterday while voicing his confidence on the decision that the Barisan Nasional leadership will make regarding the seat. The seat, which is currently held by LDP’s Liew Yun Fah, has been at the centre of a controversy as it is also being sought by Kalabakan Umno Chief Datuk Ghapur Salleh, who has insisted the constituency belongs to Umno. “We have every confidence in the BN leadership and that the Merotai seat will be given back to LDP, which we have won handsomely for the coalition in the last election. “Demands can always be made but we are confident the ruling coalition would allow LDP to represent BN in Merotai... I have absolutely no doubt on that,” he said speaking to reporters during LDP’s Chinese New Year celebration at the State Prisons Department in Kepayan near here, Liew also stressed that they also believe BN would return the Sandakan seat to LDP, and in fact, they have made their request known to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi during the party’s congress in November last year. Asked about the PM’s reaction to the request, Liew answered: “Just believe that BN will maintain its status quo.” He said Ghapur’s demand for the seat was not a threat, adding: “It is just a ripple in the teacup by certain quarters, just a ripple and I do not see it as a rift at all. We (LDP) always have a very cordial working relationship with Umno, and we have every confidence that the seats will be returned to us.” Asked about his next action if Umno refused to help LDP during the election, Liew said it has yet to happen and he prefers not to speculate further. On another development, Liew described as a vocal party tells nothing but the truth. He was responding to Democratic Action Party Kota Kinabalu chairman Dr Hiew King Cheu’s statement last week requesting former Chief Minster and LDP President Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat to leave the BN, stressing that the latter had caused a stir in the coalition over certain issues. “We are just living up to the PM’s call to be truthful. LDP may be a bit vocal lately but we believe in telling the truth,” Liew said. “It may be a bit hurtful to some people but at least we let the truth out. It does not mean we do not subscribe to the cause and struggle of BN and we do not submit to malice. We want to win handsomely for the coalition in the next election and help the ruling coalition remain in power,” he said. He stressed that being vocal is good as it would help improve and overcome the existing weaknesses. At the event, Liew also shared some news of the outside world with the prison inmates. “We are all waiting for the big announcement from the Prime Minister.. it is the election date. I believe it will be made known soon,” he said.