Sabah kidnappings hit tourism more than MH370, says Malaysia Minister

View of a fish farm in Sabah, Malaysia where a Chinese citizen working for a fishing company was kidnapped on May 6, 2014. -- PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK
View of a fish farm in Sabah, Malaysia where a Chinese citizen working for a fishing company was kidnapped on May 6, 2014. -- PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Recent kidnapping cases in Sabah have had more impact on the tourism industry than the disappearance of the MH370 jetliner in March.

Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz told Parliament on Tuesday that a total of 76 flights to Kota Kinabalu from China were cancelled recently.

"Which is why we need to ensure more is done to convince tourists from China that Sabah is safe, but this is beyond my ministry's capacity.

"I believe the Sabah government is doing the necessary to assure people that the state is safe.

"The Home Ministry must also do more to help increase the confidence of the people that Sabah is safe.

"They (Home Ministry) must walk to the talk to ensure no untoward incidents happen again," said Mr Nazri in reply to a supplementary question by Azmin Ali (PKR-Gombak).

Mr Azmin had asked if the kidnapping cases in Sabah caused a bigger impact to the tourism industry than the disappearance of MH370.

Mr Nazri said although the kidnappings occurred on the east coast of Sabah, they had an impact on the entire state.

He said countries such as the United States, United Kingdom and Germany have issued travel advisories to their nationals visiting Sabah.

"I tried my best to ask these countries to retract the advisories but it is difficult based on the current situation," added Mr Nazri.

Early Monday, a 32-year-old Malaysian fish farmer and his worker were snatched from a fish farm in Kunak, 60km south of Lahad Datu, by gunmen in a speedboat.

It was the third kidnapping in the area in three months.

On April 2, a Chinese tourist and Filipino hotel worker were abducted from Singamata Reef Resort, near Semporna, by five gunmen.

They were released after weeks of quiet negotiations through Malaysian police intermediaries.

In May, a 34- year-old Chinese national Yang Zai Lin was abducted by Filipino gunmen, close to the shores of Silam. There is still no word on him.

On MH370, Mr Nazri pointed out that were about 30,000 cancellations from China tourists this year, adding the ministry also expected the number of tourists from China, especially from Beijing, to drop further next year.

He said to balance the loss of the Chinese tourist, short-term measures such as increasing campaigns in other markets, have been adopted by the ministry.

Mr Nazri said the ministry has increased campaigning in countries such as Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei, the Philippines, India, Bangladesh, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Australia and New Zealand.

He also said a crisis management committee was formed by Tourism Malaysia to tackle the China tourism market.

"The committee will work with the industry players in China to help build back the confidence in Malaysia and encourage tourists to travel here," he added.

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