Safety concerns in Sabah grip travel trade after kidnapping

FOREIGN travel agencies are alarmed by the abduction of two women from a Sabah resort last week, a mere five months after members of the same militant group killed a Taiwanese man and kidnapped his wife on Pom Pom Island (TTG Asia e-Daily, November 18, 2013).

The incident by the Abu Sayyaf group, which took place at Singamata Reef Resort off Semporna, Sabah, has raised concerns about safety standards in Sabah in general.

Diethelm Travel Malaysia’s managing director, Manfred Kurz, said Diethelm’s European clients have enquired about the situation and now generally avoid selling the east coast of Sabah.

He added: “The capital city, Kota Kinabalu and surrounding areas are still selling well. But demand for the east coast of Sabah reduced a lot after the Pom Pom incident in November 2013. I wouldn’t be surprised if we receive cancellations for bookings (to the east coast) later.”

Adam Kamal, general manager of Rakyat Travel said overseas travel consultants who have made bookings to Sabah for April and May have also asked if Sabah is safe.

Sabah Tourism Board has sought to reassure the travelling public. General manager and board director, Irene Benggon Charuruks, explained in an advisory issued yesterday: “The police have identified the criminals and will continue investigations. The priority is to secure the safe release of the victims. All resorts operators in the East Coast are working closely with the authorities to reinforce and enhance security measures, for the safety of visitors and guests.

“Our attractions including the dive islands-resorts in the east coast, nature and wildlife sanctuaries in Sandakan and throughout the West Coast are open all year-round. Sabah is peaceful and the people are friendly. It is business as usual.”

However, today’s edition of Malaysian daily The Star reported that police have yet to locate the gunmen and their hostages – Gao Huayun from Shanghai and Filipina resort worker Marcy Dayawan.

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