Sunday, September 23, 2012

Decision will hurt Sabah tourism – tour guides

PENAMPANG: Local tour guides in Sabah are maintaining their objection against the Tourism Ministry’s decision to allow Korean tour guides to be given licenses and the right to operate in the State.

A group of some 30 Sabah Tour Guide Association (STGA) members who were outraged by the move said yesterday that they would not compromise on the issue and were prepared to do whatever it takes them to protect their livelihood.

Calling for press conference at the Sabah Democratic Action Party (DAP) office in Bundusan, they claimed hundreds of local tour guides currently serving as sit-in guides for Korean tourists were at risk of losing their job.

“And this is just the beginning. The worst part is the possible negative impact it has on the whole tourism industry in Sabah. So, there is a lot at stake here, not just the livelihood of the tour guides but the interest of the State and its people in general,” said the group spokesperson who wish to remain anonymous.

He said allowing foreign tour guides to handle tourists from their own country may put the State’s tourism attractions, especially the wildlife at risk.

He pointed there had been several incidents in the past where tourist leaders or translators from Korea have been found allowing groups they were accompanying to feed wild animals and taken precious plants away from our forests.

“It is common sense that you should not feed wild animals, especially food that can make them sick. It’s not that they don’t know this, but they simply do not have the same sense of respect and appreciation, they do not value our wildlife as much as we do.

“For us the flora and fauna, which is the reason why many tourists come to Sabah, is a treasure that we want to protect but for them, it is just about making money and keeping their clients happy. So, they will not be as strict when it comes to preventing their clients from damaging our environment.

“In fact, there was an incident where a Korean translator beat a monitor lizard with a chair at Sapi Island after some tourists in his group got scared with the animal that was foraging for food near their camping site,” he said.

By aligning themselves with the opposition to gain political platform for protesting against the decision, the group has defied STGA president Daniel Daughty’s recent warning that the association would not condone any member turning the matter into a political issue.

According to the group, the existing system where registered local tour guides accompany Korean groups in their tour with the help of a Korean translator was working well, as shown by the continuously increasing number of Korean tourists into Sabah.

Moreover, they said, if the Koreans wanted their guides to be fluent in Korean language, all that was needed to be done was to train the local tour guides to speak the language.

The group added, bringing in their own tour guides would not make any sense for the foreign visitors because they would not have the same intimate knowledge of the places, animals, plants and cultures of Sabah like the local guides do, even if they were trained in local tour packages.

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