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(File pic) The idea was mooted by Deputy Chief Minister and state Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Christina Liew, and New Zealand High Commissioner to Malaysia Hunter Nottage during the latter’s courtesy visit to Liew’s office, today. (NSTP/EDMUND SAMUNTING)

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah and New Zealand will form a joint council to boost tourism and trade.

Key tourism and trade players from both sides will sit on the proposed Sabah-New Zealand Council of Tourism and Trade to formulate policies and make recommendations to the government.

The idea was mooted by Deputy Chief Minister and state Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Christina Liew, and New Zealand High Commissioner to Malaysia Hunter Nottage during the latter’s courtesy visit to Liew’s office, today.

“I will brief the chief minister (Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal) on the matter.

“The ministry’s permanent secretary and Sabah Tourism Board (STB) will do a follow-up,” said Liew.

Liew and Nottage believe the council will benefit both sides enormously from the perspective of tourism and trade growth.

“It’s a new idea in terms of structure and architecture, but the theme for cooperating in trade and tourism is one that we have been doing for a while,” said Nottage

“This is a great start... We will work on this (proposed Joint Council) and we will put more shape around this. The ideas are there.”

Nottage added that they would work with senior ministry and STB officials.

Nottage said he would send a full report to Wellington and also call on the chief minister on his next trip here.

Liew and Nottage concurred that their first meeting was a great start to encouraging more New Zealanders to visit Sabah and vice versa.

STB’s statistics show that there were 3,262 New Zealand tourist arrivals in Sabah between January and December last year. The first six months of this year recorded some 1,256 tourist arrivals from the country.

During the meeting, Nottage also pointed to the possibility of having a cultural exchange to showcase cultural heritage, adding that he hoped to bring Maori arts and culture over to Sabah.

He also suggested a focus on “Borneo” branding in efforts to promote Sabah and Sarawak.

The high commissioner attended the Kota Kinabalu International Film Festival, which featured, among others, a filmmaking course led by award-winning Maori filmmaker Paula Whetu Jones.

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