Friday, June 13, 2008


Eco-certification for tourism products
Program to ensure industry developed sustain ably: Masidi


An eco-certification program, as proposed in the Sabah Development Corridor Blueprint, will be developed by the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment to ensure sustainable development of tourism. According to its Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun, the eco-certification will be part of the benchmarks to be developed for accreditation to indicate the quality and standards of our tourism products. “This program aims to make sure that every development project is eco-friendly, and takes into consideration any products for conservation,” he said, adding that the program will enhance the products. Masidi said the program is a growing trend in Europe where people prefer to patronize outlets which are eco-friendly, and the value of a product would be added instead of creating a new product. “We will invite an independent body to give the certification for the products that meet certain standards that we will use to measure the products,” he said, adding that the program will hopefully be conducted before the end of this year. “As about 80 percent of tourists come to Sabah for leisure and recreation, we have to ensure that we not only have new and innovative products that meet their needs and expectations but also high standards and quality of delivery of the products and services to encourage them to return for repeat visits,” he said. Masidi was speaking at a seminar on Sabah Tourism Industry Towards 2025, which was themed ‘Strengthening Sabah Tourism Towards a Vibrant Premier Tourism Destination” at Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort here yesterday. It was attended by 200 tourism industry players and representatives. Also present at the one-day event were Deputy Secretary General (Tourism) in the Ministry of Tourism Dr Junaida Lee Abdullah, Institute for Development Studies Executive Director Datuk Dr Mohd Yaakub Hj Johari and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment Suzannah Liaw. The seminar, which consisted of presentations and workshop, was organised to inform the stakeholders of the mission, vision, strategies and programmes of the SDC Blueprint with respect to the development of the State tourism industry and to obtain feedback to further chart the direction of the industry. According to Masidi, the visitor arrivals in 2007 yielded a total of about RM4.7 billion in tourism receipts for Sabah, contributing some 14.6 percent to Sabah GDP. He said the arrivals jumped by about 220 percent compared to the previous year. “A working target of 3.4 million visitor arrivals by 2010 has been set to provide a focus and thrust for development of tourism; new and appropriate products and services as well as supporting infrastructure,” he said. Masidi said the Sabah Tourism Masterplan 1996, which provides the framework and direction for policy, development and growth of tourism for a period of 15 years from 1995 to 2010 in the State, needs to be reviewed and updated as it is drawing to a close. “It is not only to keep the State tourism roadmap for development and growth current and relevant but also to achieve the vision and meet the objectives presented in the SDC Blueprint,” he said. Masidi said the blueprint, which can transform Sabah into a very desirable destination for tourists, can be realised in three development phases of specific target time-lines for steady growth and positioning of Sabah into a vibrant destination. “Of course, this vision also requires that we take the necessary measures to sustainably manage, protect and conserve the very resources that constitute the foundation of our tourism development and the long-term future of the industry in the State,” he said. Masidi said Sabah’s environmental resources are fundamental assets that will continue to determine the State’s market positioning as a Premier Nature and Adventure Destination. He said that while innovation is encouraged, the core values and integrity of local cultures should be understood and observed at all times and as much as possible maintained and preserved. “We would do a great disservice to our cultural heritage if we carelessly substitute authenticity with creations that completely alter the traditional values and essence of our traditional culture for short-term objectives and gain,” he said. He added that while the tourism in Sabah is still heavily reliant on air access and direct flight connections, the rising fuel costs can be surmounted if we have a clear understanding of the visitor generating markets, needs and behaviour, and respond accordingly with appropriate marketing and product development strategies,