KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Tourism Board (STB) has requested that Kota Kinabalu be included in the Covid-19 Free Destination Programme, Malaysia's travel bubble pilot project.
STB chairman Datuk Joniston Bangkuai said he hoped Kota Kinabalu will be listed together with Kuching, Langkawi Island and Fraser's Hill, the earliest destinations in the project.
Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri recently announced the inclusion of Pangkor Island as the latest destination in the project.
However, Bangkuai said at least one destination in Sabah should be included in the project initiated by the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry.
The programme is part of the National Recovery Plan (NRP) for the tourism sector.
Bangkuai, who chaired the STB tourism board committee meeting yesterday, said STB would discuss with the ministry on the need to expedite the Covid-19 inoculation of tourism workers in the state.
The state assistant tourism, culture and environment minister said a concerted effort is needed to accelerate the reopening of the tourism industry in Sabah.
The need to speed up the vaccination process was in line with Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor's call to achieve 60 per cent target by October in order to achieve herd immunity by year end.
"Once tourism workers are vaccinated, it will boost interstate travel," said Bangkuai.
He said the stakeholders also acknowledged the need to make sure the reopening of the tourism industry is safe and in compliance with strict health protocols of the standard operating procedures (SOPs).
STB is mindful of the need to have regular public-private sector engagement and support the small medium enterprises (SMEs) during these hard times by giving grants to refurbish the tourism infrastructures, he said.
He said the state Tourism Recovery Committee which comprised of captains of industries would be meeting next week to deliberate and revisit the Tourism Recovery Road Map drawn up after the first meeting of the committee late last year.
"Once the pandemic is under control, STB will embark into more aggressive marketing and promotions to tap into the business and leisure travel segment," he added.
The meeting also agreed that STB would be supporting high-impact events such as the national MATTA fair in Kuala Lumpur on Nov 20, in which Sabah is featured as the preferred domestic destination for Malaysia, and the two-week Sabah Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Satta) Virtual Tourism Mart starting Sept 16.
Other matters raised during the meeting included the proposal of Sabah in gearing-up to reopen the state's ailing tourism industry and continuing to promote Sabah as a preferred destination.
STB has continuously kept a close rapport with key partners overseas to keep abreast with the preparations done by the outbound destinations.
The most recent campaigns included the #EnchantingSabahLive Sessions which presented an array of topics and showcased tourist attractions in Sabah.