Kota Kinabalu: Eighteen issues or anomalies were raised at an industrial dialogue between the Malaysian Association of Tours and Travel Agents (Matta) Sabah Chapter, Sabah Tourism Ministry and Federal Licensing Board at Pacific Sutera Hotel, here, Friday.
The first of these concerned the "perennial problem" over climbing permit, which has been described as a "love-hate relationship" between Sabah Parks and tour operators.
Matta cited cases of guests with secured accommodation at Laban Rata but found all climbing permits have been issued out!
Sabah Parks Director, Paul Basintau, said a standing "instruction" existed since January 2008 that all visitors intending to climb Mt Kinabalu must first obtain a climbing permit from Sabah Parks before booking for accommodation at the mountain.
"But we are still at the mercy of visitors going to book directly and we are not informed. I understand also that Sutera Sanctuary Lodge (SSL) conducts online bookingÉbut once SSL captured that booking they have to inform us immediately so that reservation of permit could be done with name, passport number or even IC," he said.
Basintau, who disclosed that Sabah Parks issues 149 climbing permits a day, said the anomaly can be "improved" if the Ministry of Finance could approve its proposed computerisation system so that even climbing permits can be booked online.
At this point, Charlie Chang took to the floor and asked SSL to "clear the air" on why tour operators have been "forced" to buy their three-day-two- night package when it could be "optional".
While SSL Deputy General Manager, Adrian, explained at length their position, Datuk Susannah Liau, Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Environment, asked:
"I think you have to explain why is it that you are forcing people to buy the package two days one night and then three days one night. Can't they (tour operators) book only the accommodation without the package? "
As Adrian delved into the details, patience apparently ran thin as Susannah said the Ministry has been on the receiving end of the issue "which is creating a lot of complaints, you know (which is), wasting our time. I think you have to look into this very seriously."
"As I see it, this problem has nothing to do with the permit. Every time they say it's the climbing permit but climbing permit is actually very simple. This problem is actually SSL's packages that are creating the problem for the climbers, so I think SSL must look into it seriously and resolve it for the industry, please," Sussanah said, to which Adrian said he would.
Continue reading at: SSL urged to relook at 'compulsory' Mt. Kinabalu package