DIRE SHORTAGE: There's a demand for tourist guides who can speak Korean
KOTA KINABALU: Tourist guides in Sabah need to take up the challenge to have more Korean-speaking tour guides.
In this way, they will not have to worry about Koreans taking over their livelihood.
State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said local tourist guides needed to look at the issue objectively rather than emotionally when addressing the problem.
He was referring to the decision of the Tourism Ministry to allow Koreans to be employed as tour guides in Sabah as a temporary measure in view of the shortage of guides here who could speak the language.
However, Masidi said they would meet up with their federal counterparts to have further discussions on the conditions.
"It's not about marginalising the local people. But the local people must take up the challenge as we can't stop the business from growing just because we don't have locals who can speak Korean.
"We want a fair mechanism for everyone, so we will discuss the matter with the Tourism Ministry and this will include putting a cap on the period.
"For example, maybe after two or three years when we have trained enough locals, we can stop taking in Korean tourist guides," he said yesterday.
He earlier held a dialogue with members of the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) Sabah branch.
On Monday, Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen said that they were temporarily allowing Koreans to take up local tour guide courses so that they could be employed as tour guides here.
This was being done while the Sabah Tourist Guide Association (STGA) work on providing more Korean-speaking local tour guides.
Dr Ng was speaking after presenting the 1Malaysia Student Discount Card to students of Universiti Malaysia Sabah.
She said at present, there were only eight registered Korean-speaking tour guides in the state.
In the first half of this year, 48,000 Korean tourists visited Sabah while for last year, the figure was 36,000.
She explained that the decision was made following requests from the Korean embassy in Malaysia.
She also stated that her ministry has noted the association's concerns on their members losing their incomes to foreigners.
She said they received 19 applications from Korean nationals but only seven of them have work passes and the ministry would be working with the Immigration Department to assist the rest.
She also mentioned that a similar move would be implemented for Russian-speaking tour guides in Malaysia.
STGA chairman Daniel Doughty was disappointed as there was no consultation with them despite their requests to discuss the matter with the Tourism Ministry.
The tour operators here wanted to know what the ministry thought was the problem with the current system of using translators to assist local guides handling Korean visitors, he added.
"If they consulted us, we would suggest that the best way is to follow how we created our pool of Japanese-speaking guides.
"It is not about learning the language in Kota Kinabalu but like the Japan situation, we sent our locals to Japan to stay and learn their cultures and habits. We believe many will respond well if a mechanism is set up for this."