KOTA KINABALU: A New Zealand-Sabah Joint Council on Tourism and Trade is set to be formed to assist efforts to boost its economic sectors bilaterally.
The matter was agreed upon between Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Christina Liew and New Zealand High Commissioner to Malaysia, Hunter Nottage recently.
The idea came during a courtesy call paid by Nottage to Liew here recently.
“We believe a New Zealand-Sabah Joint Council on Tourism and Trade will benefit both countries enormously from the perspective of tourism and trade growth. We will be on the learning curve together,” they said.
According to Liew and Nottage, key tourism and trade players from both sides will sit on the proposed Sabah-New Zealand Council on Tourism and Trade to formulate policies and make recommendations to the Government.
“I will brief the Chief Minister on the matter. The Ministry’s Permanent Secretary and Sabah Tourism Board (STB) will do a follow-up,” said Liew who is also Minister of Tourism, Culture, and Environment.
The Minister and Nottage concurred that their inaugural meeting was a great start to encouraging more New Zealanders to visit Sabah and vice versa.
“This is a great start. It’s wonderful, thank you so much. We will work on this (proposed Joint Council). We will put more shape around this. The ideas are there. Fabulous,” Nottage commented.
Statistics from STB showed that there were only 3,262 New Zealand tourist arrivals to Sabah between January and December last year, while the first six months of this year recorded some 1,256 Kiwis visiting the state.
Describing their proposal as a great idea which, must be put into action, the NZ High Commissioner said his next move was to take that idea and work at the working level with senior officials from the Ministry and Sabah Tourism Board.
“In this way, we can provide some concrete actions to move forward quickly on it because it is such an exciting idea. As the High Commissioner here, in fact, I will be providing a full report back to Wellington. I think the proposed Joint Council will be very welcomed because this is exactly why I am here, and that is to promote trade and tourism,” he said, adding that he would call on Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal on his next trip here.
“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 already doing for a while. But this (proposal) will give a major boost in energy and enthusiasm and I am very delighted about it,” he said.
Also discussed was the possibility of having a cultural exchange programme.
“A cultural package would allow New Zealanders to learn more about Borneo. We hope to bring Maori arts and culture over to Sabah as well,” he enthused.
While conceding that everyone knows Malaysia, he suggested a focus on “Borneo” branding in efforts to promote the East Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak.
While here, the NZ High Commissioner also attended the KKIFF which featured, among others, Paula Whetu Jones, an award-winning Maori film-maker from New Zealand.
Also present were the Ministry’s Deputy Permanent Secretary, Hjh Mariam Omar Matusin and STB senior officials.-SabahNewsToday