Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Sabah resorts lament shortage of Chinese-speaking dive masters, staff

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah’s diving industry faces a shortage of Chinese-speaking dive masters and supporting staff to cater to the increasing number of Chinese tourists.

This poses a problem for Chinese tourists, who make up 60 to 80 per cent of the customers in the diving industry, to communicate their need and wants, or their complaints. Industry players said the shortage is caused by the reluctance of local Chinese to go to work on the islands.

Suzette Harris, managing director of Seaventures Dive Rig, who runs a rig on a relatively remote location, said many of her staff complained that it was hard working on a rig because they have no place to go to after work and so they get bored after one or two months there.

She said providing food and accommodation for her employees meant that the workers get to keep their salary, but even this could not entice workers to work on a rig.

Harris said this after a meeting between the Ministry of Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment and the Semporna Resort Operators Association (SROA) here yesterday.

SROA has sought the ministry’s assistance, in particular to allow the dive industry to employ workers from China, to fill the void. Harris pointed out that it is not easy to get China workers here because of the procedures involved.

While westerners could stay here for three months on a tourist visa, China workers could only stay for a month in Sabah on a tourist visa, which does not allow employers sufficient time to apply for a work visa for the Chinese workers, Harris said.

Meanwhile, Sophia Sie, a representative from the Reef Dive Resort on Mataking Island, hoped that the government could give the industry some leeway on this matter if foreign Chinese employees were recommended to a specific resort.